Workers at the site were reportedly filling a 210-barrel tank in preparation
of a hydraulic fracturing operation at the site in Norris City, White County,
Illinois, sometime around 1pm on Tuesday.
The tank apparently began leaking but went unnoticed by a welder, according
to Sonny McCulley, the father-in-law of one of the victims.
“They apparently didn’t vent the tank before Shane started welding on it,
and it exploded,” McCulley told the Evansville Courier & Press.
“A couple of them took off running around the well. The welder was
completely engulfed in flames. Brandon and the others were able to put out the
flames. Brandon put them all in his truck and drove them to Norris City where
the ambulances and helicopters met them,” McCulley told the newspaper.
He said the fire was extinguished in a matter of minutes.
Milly Santiago, a spokeswoman for the Illinois State Fire Marshal, said one
of the victims – the welder – had suffered burns on 90% of his body. Two of the
other victims remained hospitalised, she said, while another had been released.
Some of the victims were standing between 10 and 15 feet away from the
welder when the explosion occurred, Santiago added. She said the welder was “trying
to repair a possible leak”.
She said the incident has been “ruled accidental” but did not know if there
would be any fines or charges forthcoming.
The drilling site is located in a rural area near Plainview Church, the
White County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement.
The lease is owned by Brankston Creek and Land Trust. The Courier &
Press identified the operator as Bob Hartman.
Injured in the blast were Shane Farris, John Sullivan, Jason Parr and Brandon
Hooper, according to the sheriff’s statement.
Farris and Sullivan were transported by helicopter to hospital; Parr and
Hooper were transported by ambulance.
Farris and Parr were treated for severe burns. Sullivan remained in hospital
on Wednesday, but Hooper was said to have been treated and released on Tuesday.
“Brandon has burns to his hands and elbows,” McCulley told the newspaper.
“His back is really, really red, and his hands and stomach are really
blistered. He is a very, very lucky man.”
An investigation into the blast is ongoing, Santiago said.