Pinedale, Wyo. • One of the workers injured last week in a Jonah Field explosion planned to marry next summer, but is now fighting for his life.
Twenty-three-year-old Brandon Chadwick is in critical condition at a Utah hospital, The Star-Tribune reported Tuesday. He was one of five workers injured in the blast at an Encana drilling site 35 miles south of Pinedale.
Three of the workers have been released from the hospital. The fourth was in serious condition at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, according to an Encana spokeswoman. The identities of all four were not released.
Chadwick’s fiancee tells the newspaper that he has significant burns covering between 12 and 20 percent of his body.
"It will change him forever," said Makayla Whitney, 19.
Chadwick and four other men, ages 19 to 51, were injured when a battery of condensate tanks exploded at Encana’s Antelope 91-29H facility. Condensate is a byproduct of natural gas production.
The blast appears to be a result of welding work being done at the site, according to a preliminary investigation by the Wyoming Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Pinedale, a town of around 2,000 on the western slope of the Wind River Mountains, serves as a hub for energy production in the nearby Jonah Field, one of the country’s largest onshore natural gas fields.
The shock of the blast was still being felt around town Monday.
"It has deeply affected everybody," said Ana Schofield, manager at Oba’s Market and Deli. "Everybody knows somebody that was affected."
Whitney is one of four of the deli’s employees with significant others who work in the gas field, Schofield said. When they first learned of the explosion Friday, all frantically dialed their loved ones to see if they were all right. Then the news that Chadwick was injured came through.
"We’re pretty devastated for both her and Brandon," Schofield said, adding that the community has begun to rally around the couple.
Work at the drilling site has been halted while Wyoming OSHA conducts its investigation. The event has been categorized a catastrophe, a designation lent to accidents in which three or more workers are hospitalized, said OSHA spokeswoman Hayley McKee.
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