Five People Missing After Explosion at Oklahoma Drilling Site

(The Washington Post) —
Smoke billows from the site of a gas well fire near Quinton, Okla., early Monday. (Kevin Harvison/The McAlester News-Capital via AP)

Five people are missing after an explosion at an Oklahoma drilling rig Monday morning, according to news reports.

The explosion happened just before 9 a.m. Central time in northeast Pittsburg County, according to the Pittsburg County Sheriff’s Office. County officials were not immediately available to comment, but Kevin Enloe, the county’s emergency management director, told KOTV that five people remain unaccounted for.

Officials did not say whether anyone was killed or how many, if any, were injured; but Enloe told KOTV that at least three medical helicopters had landed at the site.

Pittsburg County Sheriff Chris Morris told the McAlester News-Capital that more than 20 employees were present when the explosion happened. The sheriff’s office also said a nitrous truck will be used to help suppress the fire.

Images and videos taken by local media show several fires burning as thick black smoke blanketed the facility. The explosion, which happened near the town of Quinton about 140 miles southeast of Oklahoma City, sent black smoke to nearby farmlands.

The drilling rig is operated by Oklahoma City-based Red Mountain Operating, said Matt Skinner, spokesman for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, the state agency that regulates oil and gas industries. A call to the company was not immediately returned.

The cause of the explosion is not yet known. Skinner said the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, will investigate the cause.

“Once things are under control, we oversee remediation of any pollution,” Skinner said.

A call to OSHA’s Oklahoma office was not answered Monday because of the partial federal shutdown.

Skinner said he’s not aware of any violations involving Red Mountain Operating. He said he’s not sure whether the company was drilling oil or gas, but some media reports describe the incident as a gas well explosion.

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