Explosion and fire send 2 to the hospital in Ohio County

WHEELING, W.Va. — Two gas workers are recovering from burn injuries after an explosion and fire on a natural gas drilling site in Ohio County.

The blaze occurred around 11 p.m. Sunday on the Franz-Thoman drilling site near Wheeling operated by Southwest Energy. Ohio County Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Lou Vargo said the explosion happened in a storage tank as crews were winding down the drilling process on the site.

“It’s an 800 barrel tank that was off to the side of the rig. There was an ignition source which is under investigation and there was a fire and explosion of that tank,” said Vargo.

The tank contained residual material from the drilling process. The ignition source is not known, but is being explored by the West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s office. Other federal and state regulatory agencies are also on the scene investigating the mishap.

Two workers were injured. According to Vargo one was flown to the West Penn Burn Center in Pittsburgh. The second victim was taken by ambulance to Wheeling Hospital and was also eventually transferred to the West Penn Burn Center. Their conditions are unknown.

“Southwest did implement all of their emergency procedures. They did an emergency shutdown with a device that isolated the whole pad and all of the lines going to the tank were closed and locked down,” Vargo said.

The drilling work was completed on the site and crews were moving the drilling equipment out to make way for fracking which was the next step in development of the well.

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