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US jury awards $20 million after finding companies responsible for 2018 explosion

30 January 2020

On January 28, a jury awarded two families $10 million each in damages after finding four companies responsible for the deaths of five men in a January 2018 drilling rig explosion in Quinton, Oklahoma.

Representative image: Shutterstock
Representative image: Shutterstock

The explosion occurred on January 22, 2018, as a crew employed by drilling contractor Patterson-UTI Energy was drilling a gas well for the producer Red Mountain Energy. The crew was removing pipe from the well when gas began escaping to the surface and ignited. 

22 workers were on the site at the time of the explosion, which the US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) said was the deadliest drilling accident since the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion. In June 2019, a CSB investigation into the Oklahoma explosion concluded that the incident could have been avoided if federal safety regulators, state oil and gas authorities, and the energy industry had closed regulatory gaps and set tougher safety standards. The five fatalities were trapped in a control room with poorly designed exits and were blocked in by the fire, the report said.

The investigation added that tougher oversight could have prevented a series of lapses leading up to the rig explosion, alarms that could have warned the crew about the impending blowout were turned off, and the rig's crew overlooked signs that large amounts of gas were pushing into the well.

Red Mountain said some of the safety board's findings were inconsistent with the data it had provided. Patterson-UTI Drilling also said it did not agree with all of the findings in the report.

The jury’s decision on January 28 is one of the largest verdicts in Oklahoma history. The jury found Red Mountain Energy, Crescent Consulting, Patterson UTI, and National Oilwell Varco (NOV) responsible for the deaths of the five men, with the families of Josh Ray and Cody Risk being rewarded $10 million each.

The jury decided that Red Mountain Energy and Crescent Consulting were 60% responsible for the deaths of each man, with Patterson-UTI 30% responsible and NOV 10% responsible. The $20 million will be divided between the four companies by the percentages of fault that were determined in court.

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