Workers hurt in gas explosion file suit: Drilling rig in Klickitat County

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services — Unrestricted – September 1, 2009

ELLENSBURG, Wash. — Four workers injured in an explosion at a natural gas well last summer in Klickitat County are suing Delta Petroleum and its subcontractors, alleging they failed to properly hire, train and supervise employees responsible for the operation.

The workers suffered “serious, severe and permanent injuries” after a key supervisor ignored a series of warnings that gas was escaping from the well head, according the lawsuit, filed in June in U.S. District Court in Yakima.

The lawsuit claims the supervisor repeatedly failed to order that the well be sealed off after the blow outs, also called “kicks.” In the third blow out, water, pressurized gas, air and drilling fluids flew 90 feet above the drill hole, the lawsuit claims.

In addition, the lawsuit alleges that gas sensors were installed only after the explosions and before the state Department of Labor and Industries investigated the accident.

The company didn’t return phone calls requesting comment on the lawsuit. Lawyers for one of the supervisors, David Deans, who worked for a Delta subcontractor, deny the allegations and also dispute that the rig named in the lawsuit — DHS Drilling rig No. 109 — was the same one involved in the incident.

Elaine Fischer, spokeswoman for L&I, said the state found no safety violations in connection with the accident.

Delta, based in Denver, has been exploring for natural gas near Bickelton for several years and is seeking permits to drill four more wells in the area.

The explosion occurred at about 1:30 a.m. in July, sending three of the men to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle and one to Kadlec Medical Center in Richland.

An eyewitness said last summer that to escape, one of the men jumped from the rig down a steep slide used to load and unload 30-foot metal casings. He broke his right leg in several places.

Lawyers for the workers declined to elaborate on the injuries beyond the lawsuit’s characterization of them as “tragic.”

The plaintiffs are Allen Wall of Arkansas; Aubrey Bolduc of Alberta, Canada; Monte Nelms of Wyoming and Zeke Simmons of Washington state.

Nelms’ and Bolduc’s wives are named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which says their “spousal relationships” have been impaired.

In addition to Delta, the lawsuit names Sierra Engineering, a Texas subcontractor to Delta, and Deans and Lonnie Drollinger as employees or agents of Sierra.

The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages in an amount to be determined at trial. The men are represented by the Spence law firm of Jackson, Wyo. Gerry Spence is the noted trial lawyer who first made his name defending Karen Silkwood, a critic of safety at the nuclear plant where she worked.

–Leah Beth Ward can be reached at 577-7626 or [email protected]. To see more of the Yakima Herald-Republic or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to Copyright (c) 2009, Yakima Herald-Republic, Wash. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For reprints, email [email protected], call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.

Copyright (C) 2009, Yakima Herald-Republic, Wash.

You really never see a minor explosion do you? When representing workers, or others, that have been injured in an explosion, there are always a multitude of issues to look at. Training of the workers, proper equipment, safety precautions being ignored etc. As with any case, our firm looks at every potential source of recovery so that our clients can be compensated for their injuries

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