DEP inspector says old mine gas caused well-drilling explosion that burned 7 workers in W.Va.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Old mine gas ignites W.Va. well blast, 7 hurt

MOUNDSVILLE, W.Va. — A state inspector says a crew drilling a gas well through an abandoned coal mine in West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle ignited methane, triggering an explosion that burned seven workers.

Department of Environmental Protection inspector Bill Hendershot says Buckhannon-based Union Drilling had gone about 1,100 feet when something caused the ignition early Monday morning.

Union referred calls to a Texas office. A phone message wasn’t immediately returned.

Hendershot says Union had drilled through the mine near Moundsville before without incident. Now, flames are shooting at least 70 feet high.

The workers were taken to West Penn Burn Center in Pittsburgh. All are listed in fair condition.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is sending investigators to the site.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

MOUNDSVILLE, W.Va. (AP) — Federal safety investigators will be heading to the scene of a gas well explosion that’s burned seven workers in West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle.

State Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Jimmy Gianato (Ji-NET) says the explosion happened around 1:30 a.m. Monday near Moundsville off U.S. Route 250.

The severity of the workers’ burns is unknown.

Pittsburgh-based Chief Oil and Natural Gas operates the well. The company didn’t immediately return a telephone call.

Jeff Funke of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration says Chief contracts with other companies to drill, so the injured most likely weren’t Chief employees.

Funke says two investigators will soon be sent to the site but can’t enter until the well fire is out.

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