Lawsuit over 2010 natural gas explosion settled

Lawsuit over 2010 natural gas explosion settled by John O’Brien, August 13, 2013, The West Virgina Record
On July 30, U.S. District Judge John Preston Bailey, of the Northern District of West Virginia, signed a dismissal order noting a settlement reached in the lawsuit brought by Sean and Monica Porcuri against Union Drilling, Chief Oil Gas, AB Resources and BJ Services Company. Also settled are AB Resources’ cross claims against its co-defendants. Terms were not disclosed. Sean Porcuri was employed by Union Drilling as a floor hand at the Witzgall Well #2 site in Moundsville. His job required him to work on the drilling floor of the rig and to trip the pipe out of the wellbore, a complaint filed Feb. 7, 2012, says. Prior to the day of the explosion, the defendants, during the drilling of Witzgall Well #1, encountered a mine void much shallower than their drilling permit stated, the complaint says. When the crew hit the void, it encountered a large amount of methane gas, and the defendants ordered all electrical sources shut off, the complaint says. “Despite defendants’ knowledge of the large methane-filled void encountered much shallower than anticipated during the drilling of Witzgall #1, Defendants never submitted a supplemental casing plan or undertook any additional required safety precautions,” the complaint says. “Defendants knew they would encounter the same methane gas-filled void at or near the same depth when they began Witzgall #2, as the well was being drilled only 10 feet from the Witzgall #1 well.” The defendants should have notified the state Department of Environmental Protection and submitted a supplemental casing plan for approval, the complaint says. Instead, drilling continued. During Porcuri’s shift on June 7, 2010, methane began to flow up through the drilling hole and onto the rig floor, he says. Crew members informed their supervisors and site management, he adds. “Despite Defendants’ actual knowledge of the presence of methane, Defendants directed the crew and the plaintiff to continue to trip the pipe out of the well hole rather than stopping the drilling process and immediately evacuating the area in violation of applicable OSHA and WVDEP regulations and consensus industry and well-known safety standards,” the complaint says. According to news reports, the explosion shot fire approximately 70 feet high at first that injured seven workers. Porcuri said he sustained severe and permanent injuries and burns to his lower extremities, face, neck and ears. He also sought punitive damages. [Emphasis added]

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