Sheriff: Bodies of all 5 missing workers located after Oklahoma gas well explosion
QUINTON, Okla. (KTUL) -- Pittsburg County officials say the bodies of all five workers missing after a gas well explosion Monday morning have been located.
Sheriff Chris Morris says the medical examiner's office began recovery efforts around noon Tuesday and by 2 p.m. located all the missing workers in the area where they were last working, which is where Morris says the fire began. Their remains are now being transported to the ME's office for identification.
Earlier Tuesday, Morris released the names of the victims: Josh Ray of Fort Worth, Texas; Matt Smith of McAlester, Oklahoma; Cody Risk of Wellington, Colorado; Parker Waldridge of Crescent, Oklahoma; and Roger Cunningham of Seminole, Oklahoma.
In addition to the five victims, 17 other people working at the well at the time of the explosion. One person was taken to the hospital for burns but treated and released.
The explosion happened around 8:45 a.m. Monday. Dozens of fire departments, first responders and other organizations responded to the scene or offered help in the aftermath: 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, three medical helicopters, four 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 and Oklahoma Department of Transportation.
Morris said survivors recounted hearing a loud boom with the explosion, then seeing fire and running for their lives.
Authorities say the workers were at a depth of 13,500 feet drilling to 17,000.
Speaking at the Tuesday afternoon news conference, Congressman Markwayne Mullin, who serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee, said multipile federal agencies will be involved in the investigation into the explosion.
Counselors were brought in to help the workers who made it out safely, as well as their families. Red Mountain Energy, which operates the well, posted a statement to its website about the incident:
Our hearts are heavy for those affected by the tragic oil field accident in Pittsburgh County. As a company, we ask everyone to please join us in offering prayers for those who are missing and injured.
To the first responders who answered the call to render medical care and secure the well site, we say thank you. Our top priority is the people who have been affected and the safety of everyone involved.
— Red Mountain Energy
According to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission's preliminary investigative report on the incident, the fires that followed the explosion were caused by an uncontrolled gas release but they still don't know what caused the initial explosion. Contaminated water from diesel and drilling fluids spilled into a ditch along the county road to the east of the well.
OCC recommended plugging and killing the well with heavy drilling mud. They will continue testing for contaminates and possible pollution in the area.