A wellhead explosion resulting from a pressure buildup has claimed the lives of 2 workers, injuring 9 others.
The explosion occurred in Loving County, Texas, located in the Permian Basin near the Texas-New Mexico border.
The Loving County Sheriff's Department has identified Amos Ortega, 46 of Artesia, as one of the fatalities. Law enforcement officials say the second victim is from El Paso but has not yet been identified.
The 9 injured workers suffered only minor lacerations, cuts, and bruising from shrapnel expelled into the air by the explosion. Medical personnel examined them at the scene but they refused transportation to a local hospital.
Loving County Sheriff Deputy Chris Busse said there were about 15 people at the site at the time of the explosion. He said further that this was the first oil-and-gas related accident for Loving County in 2014.
Loving County Sheriff Billy Hopper said an emergency call was received between 8 and 8:30 on Wednesday morning about the incident at an oil rig, which was operating approximately 10 miles south of the New Mexico border.
Hopper said the workers were performing work on a rig that separates production fluids.
On Wednesday, local news station NewsWest 9 was told that RKI Exploration and Production owns the area on which the explosion occurred.
This was soon confirmed by Sheriff Deputy Busse, who said that an investigation by the Loving Sheriff's Department is still pending. He said, "Workers for RKI were putting in a well head...and the pressure line built up and there was a pressure explosion...It's a sad day in Loving County."
Oklahoma City-based RKI has been present in the county area for three to four years.
Busse said that debris and glass were visible near the site and the blast shattered window shields and deployed the air bags of several vehicles at the site.