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Blast, fire at eastern Utah oil well site kills 1, hurts 2

Published May 8, 2013 12:32 pm

Investigation • OSHA, state and local officials begin probe into tragedy.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A multi-agency investigation began at dawn Wednesday into what caused an explosion that killed one man and injured two others at an eastern Utah oil well site.

The Uintah County Sheriff's Office identified the deceased victim as Tyson Boren, 28, of Neola. Boren was a contracted welder at the site.

A tank near the bore hole of Newfield Exploration Co.'s Odekirk 436-817 oil well exploded during routine maintenance operations about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Newfield employee, identified as 32-year-old Rusty Harris,suffered non-life threatening injuries and remained hospitalized Wednesday at the Uintah Basin Medical Center in Roosevelt; and a third unidentified contract employee was treated for minor injuries at the scene.

"Our thoughts are with their families. This is a tragedy," Newfield spokesman Keith Schmidt said Wednesday. "We'll be conducting a full investigation into this. The fire was put out last night and the scene is cleared. We were out there at sun-up."

Sheriff's Cpl. Brian Fletcher said that Boren's remains were removed late Wednesday morning from the well site, 16 miles south of Roosevelt, and turned over to the State Medical Examiner's Office.

Along with Newfield investigators, the explosion will be probed by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Utah State Fire Marshal's Office and the Uintah County Sheriff's Department.

Sheriff's deputies, firefighters and paramedics from both Uintah and neighboring Duchesne counties rushed to the scene of the explosion Tuesday night. The fire ignited by the blast did not burn the well drilling equipment itself, but was contained to the nearby 400-gallon holding tank containing crude oil and other, unspecified equipment, Schmidt said.

The Woodlands, Texas-based Newfield Exploration is the leading player in eastern Utah's petroleum development industry. As of late 2012, the company had invested more than $1.7 billion in its Utah holdings,. The company has more than 230,000 acres with either operating wells or under development.

In 2012, Newfield reportedly was producing about 30 percent of all Utah crude oil — twice the amount of the second- and third-ranking companies. The company also operates well sites in The Midwest, Texas, Malaysia and China.

remims@sltrib.com

Twitter: @remims