New report released 18 months after workers killed in Oklahoma gas rig explosion

QUINTON, Okla. — 6/13/19 UPDATE: After an 18-month investigation, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board is releasing a new report about the deadly natural gas explosion in Pittsburg County.

The report says state regulations were focused more on profit rather than safety and federal regulations are not firm in place for on-shore drilling.

The government fined the contracter operating the rig $75,000. Patterson UTI reached settlements with the families of the five men who died in the explosion.

Original Story:

The remains of five workers have been located after a fire at a natural gas well in Quinton.

The missing individuals were identified Tuesday morning:

  • Josh Ray, of Fort Worth, Texas
  • Matt Smith, of McAlester, Okla.
  • Cody Risk, of Wellington, Colorado
  • Parker Waldridge, of Crescent, Okla.
  • Roger Cunningham, of Seminole, Okla.

Ray, Smith and Risk worked for Patterson-UTI.

Officials said 16 other employees did get out of the area safely. One other person was flown to an area hospital for burns.

Ryan Gathard, McAlester Regional Health Center Foundation director, said the hospital's charitable foundation set up a GoFundMe account and began selling shirts to raise money for the victims' families. The hospital will not collect a dime in commission, according to Gathard, instead opting to help the victims free of charge.

By Friday, officials said they had raised more than $75,000 from people across the country.

On Saturday, January 27, customers at the Chili's in McAlester who mention the Patterson 219 fund will have 10 percent of their check donated to the family's funeral fund.

Shelly's Cafe in Stigler plans to donate 100 percent of their proceeds from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday.

Emergency officials let the fire burn itself out and fought any flames that went beyond the perimeter.

Pittsburg County officials expressed their thanks to the agencies that have helped them since this incident:

  • Quinton Fire Department
  • Russellville Fire Department
  • #9 Fire Department
  • Krebs Fire Department
  • Alderson Fire Department
  • Haileyville Fire Department
  • Haywood-Arpelar Fire Department
  • Tannehill Fire Department
  • Crowder Fire Department
  • Brooken Fire Department
  • McAlester Fire Department and McAlester Fire Technical Rescue Team
  • Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management
  • Pittsburg County Emergency Management
  • Pittsburg County Sheriff Department
  • Quinton Police Department
  • Oklahoma Highway Patrol including fixed wing aircraft and IMT personnel
  • 3 Medical Helicopters
  • 4 Ground Ambulances
  • American Red Cross
  • Carl Albert Mental Health Crisis Unit
  • Oklahoma Highway Patrol Crisis Team
  • Haskell County Emergency Management
  • Haskell County Sheriff Department
  • The Town of Quinton
  • Quinton School
  • Oklahoma Corporation Commission
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration
  • Oklahoma Department of Transportation

The CEO of Patterson-UTI, Andy Hendricks, said the company is supporting families of the missing employees and working with OSHA for an investigation.

At this time, all physical needs are being met. Emergency Management said the workers, companies and family appreciate all of the donations that have been made; no further donations are needed.

Workers will retain their jobs despite the loss of the job site, according to Patterson-UTI.

They said the public is safe from contaminants and there was not a need for evacuations.

Firefighters said they were able to extinguish any secondary fires. Nine different fire departments responded to the scene.

FOX23 sent out a push alert to the news app Monday when Pittsburg County Emergency Managers and the county sheriff confirmed an explosion and fire.

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Patterson-UTI confirmed they owned the rig and released this statement initially:

Patterson-UTI confirms that we are responding to a fire at one of our drilling rigs in Pittsburg County, Oklahoma.  The cause of the fire is unknown at this time.  We have received reports that some of our employees and others are unaccounted for at this time.  Our top priority is the safety of our employees and any others who may be affected.  We've activated our emergency response systems and are fully cooperating with first responders and authorities on the scene.  We will provide more details as they are known.

The company's president and CEO, Andy Hendricks, later released a separate statement:

All of us at Patterson-UTI are deeply saddened by the news of the incident in Pittsburg County, Oklahoma, this morning. Our hearts go out to the families of the five missing individuals, three of whom are Patterson-UTI employees. We've reached out to their families and are providing support during this difficult time.

At this moment, no one knows with certainty what happened, and it would be unwise to speculate. Well control experts and emergency responders are on site and we will conduct a thorough investigation when the incident is fully contained. We will provide updates as more facts are known.

There is nothing more important to us than the safety of our employees and others we partner with in the field. Tonight, our thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected and their loved ones.

Red Mountain Energy was operating the well.

Grief counselors and religious leaders are offering support to families and workers. Red Cross is also working to handle all the first responders' needs as they contain the fire.

Fire crews also searched nearby woods for anyone that may have run from the scene, but they didn't find anyone during their search. They want to search the area once it cools down.

The drilling company has reportedly notified the families of the five missing people.

The fire created a heat signature visible on FOX23 Severe Weather Team satellite imaging:




The Oklahoma Corporation Commission sent workers to check on potential pollution, but officials said there is no cause for concern.

The commission said the fire was caused by an uncontrolled gas release. Workers reportedly tried to shut off the well. Contaminated water from diesel and drilling fluids reportedly moved into a nearby ditch, and the well operator will be charged with removing all freestanding contaminants from the area. Officials will take soil samples to insure that no further pollution occurred.

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