Grand River Dam Authority confirms explosion at Oklahoma dam killed two out-of-state contract workers


OKLAHOMA (KFOR) – The Grand River Dam Authority confirmed that two contract workers died in an explosion at the Robert S. Kerr Dam.

The explosion occurred at about 6 p.m. Thursday in an 80-foot-deep interior inspection shaft where workers from DA Smith Drilling, based out of Colorado, were performing ongoing maintenance, according to a GRDA news release.

Two of the three DA Smith Drilling workers died. The worker who survived suffered non-life-threatening injuries and was transported to a local hospital for evaluation. The names of the workers have not yet been released.

Rescue crews recovered the bodies of the two deceased workers, both men, from the inspection shaft at approximately 4:30 a.m. Friday, the news release states.

Photo goes with story
Emergency responders at Kerr Dam following an explosion that trapped two people. Photo courtesy of KJRH.

Preliminary results from an ongoing investigation show that a pocket of naturally occurring gasses caused the explosion, “which is not uncommon in geological formations,” according to the news release.

“GRDA authorities confirm Kerr Dam is stable and at no risk of additional damages,” the news release states.

Robert S. Kerr Dam is a hydroelectric facility at Lake Hudson, constructed by GRDA and completed in 1964. It produces 128 megawatts of electricity a year.

GRDA contracted Oklahoma State University Pickens’ School of Geology to study Kerr Dam’s internal base, “where scouring is evident due to recent flood events,” the news release states.

OSU sub-contracted DA Smith Drilling as experts in the field of core drilling to assess the concrete integrity and bedrock contact at dams after natural gas was detected.

“Safety for our GRDA employees, and for those who perform work at our facilities, is our number one priority,” said GRDA’s Executive Vice President John Wiscaver. “Our emergency response team relied on the expertise of Tulsa Fire Department’s Technical Rescue and Claremore Fire Department’s HazMat responders to assist with the rescue and recovery. We all are greatly saddened by this outcome.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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