2nd worker injured in W.Va. drilling blast dies

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NEW MILTON, W.Va. – A second worker injured in a July 7 explosion at a West Virginia drilling operation has died.


Jason Mearns, 37, of Beverly died Sunday at West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh, the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s office in Pennsylvania said Monday.


Mearns was one of five workers burned in the explosion at the Antero Resources drilling site near New Milton in Doddridge County. Tommy Paxton, 45, of Walton died at West Penn Hospital on July 24. The other workers were flown to the same hospital with varying degrees of burns.


Antero has said the workers were employed by subcontractors at the site.


State and federal investigators and an independent team hired by Colorado-based Antero are still investigating what caused methane gas to ignite as work was wrapping up on the Hinterer 1H well.


Antero Vice President Al Schopp has said that the crew was inserting a narrow production tube into the metal casing around the drilled hole when methane gas ignited.


The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has said that the blast ruptured two tanks containing flow back water that Antero had been reusing, but the secondary containment system captured the fluid as designed and none left the site. There was no contamination to any nearby streams.


The DEP ordered Antero to cease operations July 12. DEP spokeswoman Kathy Cosco said the site remained idle Monday.


Antero has until Wednesday to explain what caused the accident, how it plans to safely resume operations and what preventive measures it will take to avoid similar incidents.


As of Friday, the DEP had not received that report. The agency will not approve any well work until it receives the report, Cosco said.


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