by William Wark
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) this week learned of a tragic accident in New London, Texas. Two 24-year- olds – a man and a woman, both members of the public – were socializing in the vicinity of an unattended oil and gas production site located in a rural area of Texas when an explosion killed one of the individuals and seriously injured the other. The CSB has learned that this particular site was unsecured and unmanned.
I emphasize that the CSB is deeply concerned about the recent surge of accidents at oil and gas production sites across the country. We take seriously any chemical accident that fatally injures members of the public. It is the CSB’s view that companies should take proper precautions to ensure that oil and gas production sites are adequately secured, with fencing, gates, and warning signs to prevent access by teenagers and young adults who are attracted to the sites as secluded places at which to socialize.
Just last week a fiery explosion took the life of a 21-year-old member of the public in Weeletka, Oklahoma. The accident occurred on April 14 at an unattended oil and gas production site that was unsecured and appeared to lack fire or explosion hazard warning signs
That explosion occurred one day after the release of a new CSB safety video at a CSB public meeting in which I participated, in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. The safety video, entitled “No Place to Hang Out,” is aimed at educating young people on the hazards of socializing at oil sites, a common practice in rural areas, the CSB found. The video tells the story of the tragic deaths of 18-year-old Wade White and 16-year-old Devon Byrd, killed on October 31, 2009, when an oil tank, located in a clearing in the woods near the home of one of the boys in the town of Carnes, Mississippi, suddenly exploded while the two were hanging out at the site. I was deeply saddened to meet the families and friends of these two young boys who have lost so much to a preventable accident.
All of us at the CSB would like to convey our condolences to the friends and relatives of the young woman who tragically died at the oil site in New London, Texas. These accidents can be prevented through education, and by securing the sites and putting up warning signs. The CSB again urges the oil and gas production industry, state legislatures, and federal and state regulators to take action.