Two Dead, Nine Injured in Permian Basin Oil Well Explosion

A high-pressure explosion at an oil well in Loving County, Texas killed two contractors and injured nine more on Wednesday, April 30. The two workers, identified as Amos B. Ortega, 46, and Roberto Andrade Magdaleno, 41, both of New Mexico, worked for Ameriflow Energy Services, a subsidiary of Crescent Services, an oilfield services company working under contract with RKI Exploration & Production, the owner of the well.

The explosion is under investigation by the Loving County Sheriff's Office, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the Texas Railroad Commission. The initial 911 caller blamed a pressure buildup in an oil and gas separator, but Loving County Sheriff Billy Hopper reported that authorities found no separator in operation at the scene.

Loving County, America's most sparsely-inhabited county with a population of 82, is in the heart of the booming Permian Basin and has more than 3,500 oil and gas wells and sees more than 1,000 trucks pass through each week. These oilfields can be a dangerous place-April's explosion brings the death toll of Loving County's oilfields to seven since 2006. One of those was another New Mexico man, Ryan White, who was killed in Loving County in 2012 after being struck by a backhoe arm while working on an Anadarko pipeline. On the same day as the explosion at the RKI well, a man was seriously injured in after being struck by equipment at an oilfield in neighboring Eddy County, New Mexico.

OSHA has investigated seven deaths in the Permian Basin just this year, which is on pace to exceed the 16 deaths OSHA investigated last year. It is important to note that these numbers do not include traffic accidents, which are not investigated by OSHA and which are the number one killer of oilfield workers.

Oilfield work can be dangerous both to the workers themselves and to the surrounding communities, and it is important that oilfield owners and contractors be held to the highest standards of safety. Those who cause injury or death to workers and residents by failing to live up to those standards should be held accountable.

If you or someone you know has been injured or killed in an oilfield explosion or other oilfield accident, contact an attorney at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Friend by calling 713-222-7211 or 1-800-870-9584.

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