Chesapeake rig fire under investigation as 3rd worker dies

Leadership at Oklahoma City’s Chesapeake Energy must be wondering if more lawsuits are coming after a third death from a fire at one of the company’s Eagle Ford rigs in South Texas. It was the nation’s deadliest oilfield accident since five workers died in a similar accident near Quinton, Oklahoma.

Local media identified the victim as Brian Maldonado, 25 of San Diego, Texas. A Texas law firm’s website said he had suffered third-degree burns to more than 90% of his body and died while being treated at the Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas in Austin.

It remains unclear which company Maldonado worked for but Chesapeake Energy has reported it lost a worker in the explosion.

Maldonado died over the weekend after the mother of the first victim filed a lawsuit in Burleson County District Court east of Austin, Texas. Linda Milanovich, whose son Windell Beddingfield died in the fire sought court approval to have access to the site and to make sure Chesapeake Energy papers are secure.

A fourth victim remains hospitalized while Chesapeake Energy says an investigation is underway at the rig site near the town of Caldwell, Texas.

Arnold and Itkin, a law firm based in Houston reported through its website that “an early inspection report indicated that workers were upgrading the well a surge of natural gas ignited, causing the deadly explosion. Firefighters, rescue personnel, and oilfield emergency response crews responded quickly and were able to eventually extinguish the fire.”

The law firm also stated Maldonado’s death made this the deadliest oilfield accident since January 2018 when a Patterson-UTI Energy rig blew up and caught fire, killing five workers in southeast Oklahoma. The Quinton tragedy was also blamed on a surge of natural gas.

The Caldwell, Texas fire happened as workover operations were underway by Chesapeake contractors C.C. Forbes and Eagle Pressure Control.

C.C. Forbes, based in Alice, Texas focuses on well servicing primarily in Texas and Pennsylvania. Its website indicated the company emphasized safety in its operations.

“Since our inception we have placed heavy emphasis on safety and operations, focusing on the three areas of Process, Equipment and People (PEP). Together, these areas aim to reduce the potential for incidents and losses, and increase investment in equipment and personnel safety and reliability.”

In December 2019, the company merged with Superior Energy Services Inc.

Eagle Pressure Control, based in Houston, Texas also emphasized safety on its website.

“When it comes to pressure control, safety must be an absolute priority. There is no room for error. No place for oversight. No tolerance for excuses.”

One of the initial victims is believed to have been an employee of Eagle Pressure Control.