Three Workers Burned and Two Killed in Separate Oilfield Tragedies

Three workers were burned and one was killed when a wellsite operated by XTO Energy exploded, engulfing the rig and the workers in a devastating fire. The explosion occurred on June 18, 2016 at the XTO wellsite outside of Watford City, North Dakota. One of the workers---Johnny Stassinos of Rock Springs, Wyoming---was knocked from the rig structure by the force of the explosion, dying from the injuries suffered in the fall. Richard “Chad” Maheu of Rock Springs and Daniel Montes of Fruita, Colorado were burned and life-flighted to Regions Burn Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, each with third degree burns over 70% of his body. Justin Pyle of Grand Junction, Colorado was treated for less severe burn injuries and released.

XTO Energy is owned by ExxonMobil and is based in Houston, Texas. XTO and Exxon have withheld information regarding the cause of the explosion even though XTO operated the site and hired the contractors who were there at the time. OSHA has commenced an investigation but has not released its findings. Explosions and fires in the oil fields in North Dakota and Wyoming are not uncommon---nor is it uncommon, unfortunately, for companies to withhold information from the families involved and from the public. Early efforts on the part of the workers and families to undertake their own investigation of the circumstances can be critical in the face of the corporate uncooperativeness. Otherwise significant evidence can be lost or destroyed.

In another oilfield tragedy, a worker employed by Advance Energy, a drilling contractor, was killed when he was struck in the chest by the boom of a crane. The crane was being used to take pipe out of a drill hole so that an underground tool could be replaced. The death occurred at a well near Ross in western North Dakota. OSHA is investigating this death, as well. Advance Energy has refused to comment on the circumstances surrounding the death.

As oil and gas drilling continues to expand in the United States, companies have a vital responsibility to ensure that worker safety has a greater priority than production and profit. When that responsibility is neglected, explosions, fires, and other dangerous events can result. Sadly, the safety record of oil and gas companies in North Dakota and Wyoming has been abysmal for years and the fact that both states have continued to rank as two of the nation’s most dangerous workplaces has not resulted in meaningful change.

Workers who have been injured in oil field tragedies have a right to recover damages against negligent companies, including medical bills, lost earnings, pain and suffering, disfigurement, and loss of enjoyment of life. If the misconduct is serious, the worker may have a right to recover punitive damages. Likewise, family members have a right to recover damages when a worker dies in an incident of this nature and spouses of injured workers can also have a right to recover damages for loss of consortium, care, comfort, and society.

Robert P. Schuster, P.C. has investigated explosions, fires, and other work place tragedies---and successfully held companies accountable---for decades. Recently---and as reported on this website---Bob Schuster achieved the largest personal injury settlement in North Dakota history for an explosion and fire at a gas processing plant outside Watford City. The worker was life-flighted to Regions Burn Center with third degree burns to his face, head, and other parts of his body. As reported in pleadings filed with the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, the case settled for Twenty Million Dollars ($20,000,000.00). Bob Schuster is currently representing another worker who was burned in an explosion and fire at a wellsite operated by WPX south of New Town, North Dakota. The worker was life-flighted to Regions Burn Center with third degree burns to his face, head, arms, hands, and other parts of his body. The case will be tried in July of 2017.

Robert P. Schuster, P.C., has achieved unparalleled success in North Dakota, Wyoming, New Mexico, Illinois, and elsewhere by relying on basic, fundamental principles. Caring for and believing in our clients. Thorough investigation and preparation. Creative and strategic focus. Unrelenting hard work. If you or a family member has been injured in a serious oil and gas explosion or other workplace tragedy, the lawyers and staff at Robert P. Schuster, P.C., will be happy to answer your questions and assist you in any way we can. Please call us at 1.307.732.7800---or email Bob Schuster directly at bob@bobschuster.com.