Blast at Ohio gas site kills one

Vindicator staff/wire report

Bolivar, Ohio

A man was killed Monday when a tank at a gas site exploded near a small village 13 miles south of Canton, in Tuscarawas County.

The man apparently was painting the tank at the time, said Lt. Patrick Eddy, of the Bolivar Fire Department.

When the call about the explosion first came into the fire department, it was about a distinct natural-gas smell, he said.

The well was a conventional well drilled at 5,000 feet into the Clinton formation, said Heidi Hetzel- Evans, media-relations manager for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

The well was permitted in 1985 and began production in 1986. The well originally was permitted to Sherman Drilling and currently is owned by MKE Producing, she said.

The cause of the explosion and corresponding fire remains under investigation, said Shane Cartmill, public information officer for the Ohio State Fire Marshal’s Office.

By the time the fire department arrived, a part of the tank had been blown 125 yards away from the site by the blast, he said.

“There was already heavy smoke and heavy fire,” Eddy said.

Firefighters were able to get it under control fairly quickly, he said.

These types of explosions at oil and gas sites happen infrequently, Eddy said.

“This was a freak accident,” he said. “The last one we had was about 10 years ago.”

The investigation of what caused the explosion has been turned over to the Tuscarawas County Sheriff’s Office and the office of the Ohio Fire Marshal, Eddy said.

An employee at a nearby group home said he felt the ground start to shake and looked toward the oil well. He said the cover of a storage tank shot about 100 feet into the air, and fuel leaked down a driveway and into a field, according to an Associated Press report.

Dr. James Hubert, Tuscarawas County Coroner, said the death appears accidental but his investigation is continuing. Cathy Clarke, coroner’s investigator, also was on the scene.

Hubert said the identity of the victim won’t be released until after family members are notified. Reports of a second fatality attributed to a municipal official were incorrect.

It will probably be a few days before the origin of the blast is known, Cartmill said.

“We’re treating it as an industrial fire at this point,” he said.

The fire marshal’s office is also working with the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration in the investigation.

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