At least 89 people died on the job in the Interior West’s oil and gas industry from 2000 to 2006, in a variety of accidents, including 90-foot falls, massive explosions, poison gas inhalations and crushings by safety harnesses. Some states choose to have the federal government handle worker safety regulation, and some create state agencies to handle it; all the agencies tend to go by the nickname OSHA, after the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Some fines in the cases listed below are not directly related to fatalities; sometimes investigators notice unrelated safety violations when they visit workplaces where workers have died.
This list is almost certainly incomplete, due to loopholes in requirements for reporting fatalities.The list below includes the victims' names, age at time of death, date of the accident, company(s) involved, a description of the accident, and fines, if any.
Ricky Erb, 19
11/27/06 Schneider Energy Services
Head injury, blown out of 5-foot hole when a reportedly 40-year-old pipeline Pending ruptured. He and rest of crew were using a cutting tool to open the pipeline, and they didn’t expect it to contain pressurized gas.Jacob Farmer, 19
11/16/06 Leed Energy Services Inc.
Struck by falling pulley on a well-servicing rig. The victim’s father works in oil and gas. PendingPhillip Smith, 44
11/6/06 Easy Street Crane Service
Crushed by truck. PendingJoshua Arvidson, 24
1/25/06 Calfrac Well Services Ltd.
Engulfed by 40,000 pounds of sand in a storage bin. $27,825Zac Mitchek, 42
11/25/05 Patterson-UTI Drilling Co.
Electrocuted while doing maintenance on a light plant for a drill rig. $11,900Larry Hill, 42
11/7/05 Union Drilling Inc.
Fell 55 feet from platform on drill-rig derrick while handling hoisted drill pipes. OSHA said the company did not ensure that the worker was using proper fall-protection gear. $19,990Randall Taylor, 62
8/14/04 Wolverine Drilling Inc.
Crushed by pulley system that collapsed from top of derrick while rig was trying to lift 270,000 pounds of drill pipe from a hole 8,400-feet deep. OSHA issued violations for unrelated problems. $4,560Scott Nelson, 26
6/1/04 Union Drilling Inc.
Crushed when the top of a drill rig collapsed. OSHA estimated the rig was built in the 1970s and said a faulty weld failed under the strain of more than 300,000 pounds of drill pipe. $18,225\Stephen Amen, 44
5/13/03 D&D Water Service
Struck when parts broke on a hoisting mast on service truck. $10,795Raul Barron, 44
4/1/03 Kerr McGee Rocky Mt Corp.Explosion at oil-and-gas waste storage plant while a crew welded a tank. Three others were hospitalized.
$14,000M.J. Welding Inc.
Bravo Services Total Inc. $1,500Marty Vigil, 32
11/18/02 Caza Drilling Inc.
Fell 100 feet from platform on derrick while drill rig was tripping pipe into the hole. OSHA said he did not have his fall-protection gear rigged properly. OSHA imposed fines for unrelated violations. $4,313Michael Blanchfield, 41
10/2/02 Hayes Petroleum
Crushed by cable that spooled onto a winch on a drill rig while crew tried to use the winch to jar loose an obstruction deep in the hole. $3,936Rex McCarley, 44
9/17/01 Baker Oil & Tool
Struck in head on a workover rig by a 60-pound valve that came loose and fell 15 feet. He was wearing a hard hat. NoneMartin Mireles, 48
7/11/01 Key Energy Services, Inc.Struck by counterweight on oil well pumping unit.
Merit Energy Co. Merit leases the well site where Mireles died and hired Key Energy to do the work. $2,250Dominick Mustache, 48
6/15/01 Colorado Refining Co.Fell off ladder in refinery. None
Jose E. Figueroa, 18
9/1/06 Grant Geophysical Corp.
Crushed in rollover of an ATV, while servicing seismic equipment exploring for oil and gas. He was driving and overloaded the cargo rack. He was part of a 45-person crew that spoke mostly Spanish, working for a Texas subsidiary of a Canadian company; the OSHA investigator needed an interpreter. $9,450
Kory Dawson, 35
4/13/06 Green Oil & Field Service Inc.
Struck, pinned to the ground and crushed by crank arm of oil-pumping rig while his crew tried to repair a part on the rig. Victim died at the scene, but the company reported it to OSHA a week later. $6,750Rodger Gonzales, 52
4/28/05 Cenex Pipeline LLC
Struck by pieces of a valve that exploded, while he was using high-pressure water — more than 1,500 psi — to test a pipeline for leaks. OSHA said the company had inadequate gauges to measure the pressure. $19,750Steve Stensaker, 27
12/28/01 Sun Well Service Inc.Struck by counterweight on pumping unit, while taking down a rig’s derrick. OSHA said the company had inadequate safety training. $2,000
Armando Fraive, 57
12/22/06 Eunice Well Service
Struck “in the chin with much force” by a pipe while erecting a drilling rig. PendingMartin Estrada, 23
10/4/06 Mayo Mars Casing Pulling Inc.
Pinned to the ground by an oil well head that popped off the well unexpectedly; the crew was trying to plug the well. PendingTodd Martin, 43
1/31/06 Halliburton Energy
Struck by a rock that was kicked up by tires on a big truck while he stood in a group of workers at a well site. The 8-pound rock flew 43 feet and hit his head and face. NoneMack Grass, 57
12/12/05 Gandy Corp.
Engulfed in a flash fire as he tried to clean the coils on a truck that heats fluids for removing wax from wells. NoneJose Ramon Hidalgo Gomez, 29
8/31/05 Triple P Oilfield Services
Struck as he opened a valve on a capped well. The well’s pressure — 300 psi — vented too quickly, spinning the pipe into his head, breaking his hard hat. OHSA found unsafe company practices and inadequate training. $6,250Hank Castillo, 43
6/25/04 Drake Well Service
Fell 75 feet from the crow’s nest atop a well-service rig. The crew was pulling rods from the well and rods accidentally hit the crow’s nest, destroying it and dislodging him. NoneEdgar A. Nieto, 19
2/3/04 Eunice Well Servicing Co.
Struck in head twice by a 75-ft section of rod on well-service rig. The rod came loose from its clamp while being hoisted. Investigators noted the rig was manufactured in 1976, victim had nine months on the job, company generally has a good training program. NoneShannon Mascarenas, 23
10/10/03 Aztec Drilling
Snagged by a rotating winch as he did a routine ”walkdown” of a drill rig. The lighting in the winch area was poor, and the winch had no guard on it. It tore his arm off. $1,200Douglas Allen Florence, 28
9/15/03 Aztec Well Servicing Co.
Burned on a coalbed-methane drill rig in a surge of gas. Apparently, the diesel engine for an electrical generator ignited the gas and flames shot more than 100 feet. $3,000Noe Rios, 40
11/18/02 L & M Drilling Inc.
Struck in shoulder and chest by massive mechanical tongs on a drill rig. The operator of the tongs had to deal with a faulty control mechanism. NoneDaniel H. Pina, 39
10/28/02 Banta Oilfield Service Inc.
Burned while repairing a heater that separates oil from water and gas. He unscrewed a valve without relieving internal tank pressure, and it ignited. Investigators said the company had a good safety program, but should’ve had more training on this procedure. $3,500Ted Thompson, 46
1/31/02 Three Rivers Trucking
Struck in face and chest by pressure gauge that shot off its mount as he pumped drums of chemicals into a gas well casing. The 165-horsepower pump system didn’t have a pressure-relief valve. $500Jose Aguirre, 31
10/2/01 Tim Snelson Pumping Service
Crushed by pumpjack at oil well while replacing a part; the brakes slipped and pumpjack cycled down on him. Investigators said company had inadequate training and no chain securing the pumpjack in case brakes slipped. $2,325Larry Blakley, 43
8/21/01 McVay Drilling Co.
While he mixed a sack of caustic potassium hydroxide at mud tank, the mix reacted violently, severely burning his body. $1,225John M. Trout, 68
8/1/01 Champion Inc.
Struck on forehead by hatch lid that blew off tanker trailer as he took on a load of ”high-gravity” crude oil. Apparently, he hadn’t opened vents to release the pressure inside the tank. He’d worked 59 hours in five days. NoneJimmy Hicks, 40
5/30/01 Patterson-UTI Drilling Co.
Struck in head by hose that came loose from a cross-member of drill rig. $1,312Juan Mendoza, 46
4/3/01 Lucky Services Inc.
Crushed by well service rig that tipped over while he was standing on it. NoneRicardo Hernandez, 20
10/31/00 Triple P Well Service, Inc.
Fell. (Investigating agency provided no details, saying files this old are typically destroyed.) NoneKirk Webb, 23
3/30/00 Pool Energy Services Co.
Burned in an explosion while he off-loaded brine from a truck into a 1,000-barrel tank. None
NORTH DAKOTACharles Lindstrom, 57
8/17/06 Energy Systems Ind., Inc.
“Blunt-force trauma” while he worked alone on the repair of a pumping unit. $750Karl Heller, 31
4/5/06 Cyclone Drilling
Crushed by 3,400-pound tank that his crew was lifting with a 1.5-inch-diameter rope when the rope broke. OSHA noted most of the crew was inexperienced and didn’t know the rope’s load rating; the company didn’t have a procedure for training workers to stay clear of loads. $3,750Zach Anderson, 20
1/30/06 American Casing & Equipment
Struck by pipe or pipe clamp while standing on a platform 30 feet above rig floor, as pipes got out of control while being spun and screwed together. OSHA noted the victim only had two or three days’ experience in the pipe-handling job. $1,050Brian Loken, 45
12/13/04 Plains Marketing L.P.
Electrocuted by an underground 7,000-volt power line while his crew tried to repair a pipeline. $3,375Danny Schroeder, 44
11/29/04 Northwest Roustabouts
Crushed between bucket and frame of skid-steer loader when he engaged the controls while climbing on the loader. OSHA said the crew lacked training and was misusing the loader in a couple of ways. $4,500Robert Updike, 21
2/9/04 Wolverine Drilling
Struck in head and neck by steel cable; crew was stringing cable to erect a drill rig, a connector broke, and cable snapped back and dropped on him. OSHA said training was inadequate and the connector had been installed improperly. $3,675Andrew Lambourn, 23
5/1/03 Stride Well Service Inc.
Crushed by a catwalk that fell when a support chain broke. OSHA said the company should’ve inspected the chain and kept workers clear of suspended loads. $7,000
UTAHDavid A. Vickers Jr. (age not provided)
6/27/06 MarMc Transportation Inc.
Run over by a forklift while working with a crew moving a drill rig; he was resting in the shade of the forklift, and a truck driver (not the forklift driver) hopped on it and drove forward. The company had just been cited by Wyoming OSHD for inadequate forklift training. $1,800Shane L. Judd, 41
6/9/06 DHS Drilling Company
Fell 90 feet from top of a rig’s derrick. He hadn’t hooked up his fall-protection device. Investigators noted the crew was pulling long work shifts, drilling in the rain; the ambulance took 45 minutes to reach the remote site. $3,150Steven Spooner, 44
2/26/05 Union Drilling
Crushed by 1,000-pound steel deck plate that fell off forklift while crew erected a drill rig. Forklift had been left idling and unattended without the brake set. $4,700Montgomery L. Allee, 40
1/14/05 Patterson-UTI Drilling Co.
Struck in head by cable as crew was erecting drill rig. The cable had gotten snagged, and rig manager told him to try to unsnag it. Investigators noted they were in a hurry, and it was an unsafe order. $7,000David Gardner, 23
2/4/04 Basic Energy
Struck in the head by descending oil rig elevator; other loud noises on the job prevented him from hearing his co-workers’ shouts of warning. $5,000Donald E. Cannon, 47
8/26/02 Cannon Well Service Inc.
Blown 112 feet when pipes ruptured at gas well where gas pressure was 1,900 psi, then gas ignited. Investigators blamed faulty pipes but also said he’d parked too close to the well. (Note: family company; his son died in rig accident in 1997.) $1,125Marcus Adam Liddell, 21
10/10/01 Basin Swabbing & Oil Service
Struck by the 20-pound elevator of a drill rig when it broke loose from top of rig and fell 66 feet onto him. (Note: family company, and his father is a co-owner. He was a college student and it happened two days after his birthday. Some co-workers quit after the accident.) NoneFloyd Morganstean, 37
8/23/00 FMC Fluid Control Div.
Struck by piece of a ”frac” head that exploded, while crew was testing whether it would hold 13,000 psi pressure. Investigators noted the crew should’ve had a shield between them and the test. $1,100
WYOMINGBobby Ray Owens, Jr., 52
11/11/06 Associated Pipeline Contractors
Driving a bulldozer, blading the right-of-way for a new transcontinental gas pipeline, he hit a 36-inch pipeline, went up in a 300-foot fireball that shook the ground and could be seen for miles. PendingJerrid Thomas Gardner, 22
10/31/06 Hawkeye Well Service
Entangled in the driveshaft of an oil well pump; his father also works for the company. PendingSteve Robinson, 35
6/1/06 High Desert Services Inc.
Slipped from a platform and got wedged between two 11-foot-tall water tanks he was heating with a propane-fired service truck, suffered ”thermal injuries” from being ”trapped against a heated metallic surface.” It happened around sunset as he worked alone at a remote gas-well site; his body wasn’t discovered until the next morning. NonePete Mascarenas, 52
4/27/06 Pioneer Drilling Serv., Ltd.
Struck in head by a forklift blade as he tried to adjust it, and it came loose; his hard hat didn’t help. $5,625Rodney Leon Caddy, 39
3/31/06 Nabors Drilling USA LP
Struck by 37-inch handle of chain-tong that didn’t release when pipe string suddenly uncoiled as drill-rig crew tried to get the string unstuck from 4,000+ feet underground. They’d put 220,000 pounds of hoisting power on the string and twisted it clockwise and counterclockwise, trying to unstick it. The man running the drilling console wasn’t supposed to be doing that job; he’d just been demoted for mistakes. $8,750Colton H. Bryant, 25
2/16/06 Patterson-UTI Drilling Co. LLC
Fell from a grated catwalk beneath a drill rig’s main deck, 26 feet into rig cellar. The place where he fell lacked safety railings. $7,031Doug Shymanski, 47
12/13/05 Cyclone Drilling, Inc.
Struck by steel cable drilling line when fastline sheave (pulley) broke and severed the line, causing line, block, hook and elevators to crash to rig floor. Some in the crew had noticed the pulley looking worn weeks earlier and had reported it to bosses. $16,250Duncan Dewayne Hughes, 44
10/31/05 Grey Wolf Drilling Co. L.P.
Crushed when his safety lanyard (fall-protection harness attached to his back) got snagged in the rotating kelly/rotary head on a 1,000 horsepower drill rig, and he got pulled tight against it, rotating with it until crew noticed and shut down. He had no previous oilfield experience; it was his 11th day on the job, and first time doing the task. OSHA noted no guard on this rig’s rotary head/catwalk, crew working long hours. $1,112Dean A. Harris, 48
10/15/05 DHS Drilling
Fell from platform atop drill rig, as crew tripped pipe into hole; rig was tilted, so he had to lean out to grab tops of pipes; he was wearing a safety harness two sizes too big and wrong kind of harness. When he fell, he dropped 15 feet, hung suspended 75 feet above deck. The driller, Troy Mabbit, giving orders on rescue, was his stepson. OSHA found mistakes by many. $8,250Daniel Franklin ”Danny” Shaules, 37
9/29/05 Chapman Contracting
Crushed by two 2,400-pound, 40-foot pipes while he worked with other men unloading pipes from a truckbed and stacking them on a pipe rack in yard. He had the job for 28 days, but in previous truck-driving jobs he’d handled pipe. $656Jimmy Joe Huckman Jr., 26
9/5/05 Cudd Pressure Control
Fell 47 feet from a platform — called a ”stabbing basket” — partway up a drill rig’s derrick; he had five years’ experience but didn’t have his fall-protection safety harness hooked up. $2,812Cain Wells, 31
7/12/05 HDR Engineering Inc.
Crashed while surveying a route for new power line to serve a coalbed methane field; he was driving an ATV in hilly desert, went over a 2-foot dropoff, flipped, suffered head injury. He had 10 weeks on the job; his training consisted of watching a 15-minute video on how to drive ATVs. He had a helmet but was not wearing it that day; it was hot, temps in the 90s. $5,625Jon Isaac Johnson, 32
6/25/05 AJ Electric, his own company (sole proprietor)
Electrocuted by a 1,450-volt line while working on a coalbed methane well. Wyoming OSHA did not investigate, because it does not cover sole proprietors. No OSHA investigationLeslie Wallace Sipe, 23
5/25/05 Northeast Wyoming Construction, LLC
Electrocuted as he was stringing new line on a contract for Powder River Energy Corp.; he was an apprentice, not a journeyman, had three years’ experience. He climbed a pole too high, slipped off a crossbar and grabbed a hot wire, 791 amps surging through him. Then he fell to ground. It happened on his 23rd birthday. $3,375Joseph K. Laster, 26
2/22/05 Tyvo LLC
Snagged by driveshaft of small drill rig running 800-1,000 rpm, both arms severed. A rancher partnered with Tyvo, LLC to get three old water-well drill rigs back into service; this one was built in 1962 and had been out of service for three years, needed a lot of work. OSHA noted the driveshaft had no guard on it, and he’d had little training. $3,375Phillip Lynn Pepper, 43
12/23/04 True Drilling Co.
Fell 90 feet from drill rig’s crow’s nest, when he leaned too far to grab a hoisted pipe; he wasn’t wearing fall-protection gear. Rig didn’t have a safety lanyard in the crow’s nest. It had broken 13 days earlier. $19,250Leroy James "Elroy" Fried, 49
8/3/04 Cyclone Drilling, Inc.
Crushed by a beam that collapsed while his crew erected a drill rig. Bolts supporting the beam broke from being overstressed, OSHA said. Fried had 16 days on the job. $1,534Joshua Duane Riedel, 23
7/24/04 Nabors Drilling USA LP
Crushed by 500-pound pipe-gripping tongs on a drill rig while crew was ”tripping in” — adding pipe to the hole. The driller accidentally engaged the tongs; the control levers and valves were improperly installed. Riedel was a college student working a summer job; he had three weeks on the job. Other crewmembers were also inexperienced. OSHA fined the company — world’s largest drilling company — $625. When Riedel’s parents expressed outrage, OSHA raised the fine to $1,875James "Jim" Albert Bates, 48 1/5/04
Patterson-UTI DrillingStruck by a 6-foot pipe on a “mud line” — pumping high-pressure cement into a well casing — that came loose, knocked him from rig deck 35 feet to the ground. He was part of the drill rig crew; a separate Halliburton Energy Services crew was doing the cement job. OSHA noted the Halliburton pump operator had only four weeks’ experience in that job.
1/6/04 Halliburton Energy Services $1,114Bennie Singleton, 19
7/18/03 Bill’s Hydraulic Specialist Service
Heart attack probably due to heat stress while installing pipe at a remote oil well on a cloudless 100-degree day; family company, owned by one of his uncles, and he was working with another uncle at the time he fell suddenly ill. $3,375Debra Lee "Debbie" Zeleny, 41
4/7/03 Merit Energy Company
Blown 54 feet sideways by pipeline rupture. She and co-worker Marsha Iriberry were at remote site opening a valve, trying to free a stuck “pig” — spherical line-reamer propelled by gas pressure. NoneCharles Douglas ”Chuck” Mead, 41
12/19/02 Merit Energy Company
Struck in chest by fragments of oilfield compressor that blew up. He was working alone, adding methanol antifreeze to the compressor. OSHA said either he made a mistake, or the equipment was designed poorly, or both. OSHA violations were not necessarily related to the accident. $6,187Harvey Montoya, 39
8/7/02 Central Valley TongsCrushed, then fell 15 feet from a basket that rode in vertical rails up rig derrick. When basket tipped, he fell out and swung on the lanyard, pendulumed into the derrick. OSHA noted: The driller running the controls was isolated in a soundproof control room, and the intercom had been broken for five weeks, so he didn’t hear the crew yelling at him to stop.
Helmerich & Payne International Drilling Co. $4,500Donny Chapman, 50
1/21/02 Benchmark Research & Technologies Inc.
Froze to death when he fell from top of truck or ladder and hit his head while delivering a truckload of slurry gel in an oilfield service yard; it was 10 degrees, wind blowing 20-30 mph; he was working alone. The footing was slick and there was no system of fall-protection in the unloading area. $2,500Brad Eugene Loberg, 37
9/15/01 Splicer Cable Service And Supply Inc.
Crushed while he fed steel cable onto a spool on a well-servicing rig; as the cable began to spool and its speed was increased, he turned to face a co-worker, raised his hand and then “disappeared” — his arm got snagged, he got yanked backwards into the spool and wrapped with cable. NoneChristopher W. Michael, 51
8/13/01 Anschutz Corp.
Poisoned by H2S gas while working on top of a 20-foot-tall tank at a gas-gathering plant; as he and a co-worker unbolted pipe flanges, the H2S gas leaked out, killing him instantly and knocking the co-worker unconscious. OSHA said Michael and his co-worker atop the tank should’ve been wearing air masks, and they didn’t unbolt the flanges properly. NoneDelbert DeWayne Bailey, 43
7/13/01 Halliburton Energy Services
Crushed by two sliding 30-foot pipes; the Halliburton crew was there to pump cement into the well casing, and while dragging their equipment up a ramp on the side of the rig, they dislodged two pipes that were stored on the ramp; the pipes slid down onto the victim. OSHA noted the crew’s actions were common practices in the industry. NoneDick Cloyd Tidwell, 41
6/25/01 True Drilling LLC
Fell 90 feet from the top of a drill rig; he was wearing a safety harness, but, coming back from a 10-minute break, he forgot to attach it to the rig; he leaned out to grab the top end of a pipe being hoisted, slipped off the platform, clung to the horns of the elevator clamp for 90 seconds while co-workers scrambled trying to reach him, then he lost his grip. NoneLoren L. Austin, 43
1/30/01 TNT Backhoe & Roustabout Service
Run over by a 1-ton truck; he and another man were coiling plastic pipe at drill rig site, cold winter day. Company policy on such days was to leave the truck idling without setting the emergency brake, so didn’t have to worry about the truck not starting or the brakes freezing. OSHA recommended chocking the truck’s wheels in such situations. $100Mark Alan Zike, 40
1/20/01 True Drilling LLC
Struck in the head by fragments of a ball valve that exploded under 1,700 psi pressure. The crew was pumping drilling “mud” to seal a well casing and the valve had deformed due to freezing and thawing. OSHA noted the crew was inexperienced, none of them had more than a few months on the job. $625Terry Metz (age not provided)
10/27/00 E & J Well Service
Struck by pipeline “pig,” when it came unstuck from a pipeline just upstream from where he was peering into the receiver barrel (where it was supposed to land). $5,400
Wexpro Co. $1,750Wayne William Franks, 35
3/4/00 Cole’s Construction Service Inc.
Crushed by 680-pound pipes at a coalbed-methane well site as he helped unload the pipes from a truck he was driving. He was standing on pipes stacked on his truck, lost his balance and fell under pipes tumbling off a backhoe. OSHA noted the backhoe driver was inexperienced, and it was unsafe for the truck driver to stand on the pipes during the unloading, but it was also a common practice in the oilfields. NoneEdwardo Sanchez, Patrick Martinez (ages not provided)
2/14/00 Okemah Construction
Electrocuted as they stacked coalbed methane pipes when 28-foot-long tractor boom hit an overhead power line.Ronnie Keith Green, 36
12/20/04 Arrow Trucking
Crushed by a 1,230-pound plastic pipe while he unloaded a truckbed of the pipes at a gas pipeline station. NoneJames Ronald Shaw Jr. (age not provided)
8/2/01 John Bunning Transfer Co. Inc.Fell nine feet from platform, while loading hot, molten sulfur onto a truck; the sulfur was piped from a natural gas plant. OSHA noted there was no guardrail. $1,600