Authorities Identify Workers Injured In Gas Well Fire

AVELLA (KDKA) — Authorities continue to investigate today following a massive fire at a Marcellus Shale drilling site that injured three workers in Washington County Wednesday evening.

Investigators were back at the scene today in Avella, looking for the exact cause of the fire. The drilling company, Chesapeake Energy, has also now released new information about the incident.

Company officials have identified the workers who were injured in the fire. They are 48-year-old Russell Schoolcraft, from Clover, W. Va., 50-year-old Richard Lancaster, from Sardis, Ohio, and 36-year-old Frank Lancaster, of Martinsville, W. Va.

Officials say they are truck drivers for BBU Services Incorporated and were wearing flame-resistant clothing at the time of the incident. They were removing water from melting snow.

Authorities say Schoolcraft and Richard Lancaster were taken to Mercy Hospital, and Frank Lancaster was taken to West Penn Hospital. Their conditions have not been released, but officials say none of the injuries are life-threatening.

Meanwhile, at a news conference Thursday afternoon, company officials apologized to the public for any inconvenience the fire may have caused.

They also reiterated that the blaze did not cause any environmental damage or endanger the public.

According to officials with Chesapeake Energy, a preliminary investigation concluded that the fire was ignited by natural gas condensation, or “wet gas,” inside the tanks.

They also say the fire had nothing to do with hydraulic fracking as that process had already been completed.

“There have been some early accounts that this was related to hydraulic fracturing; it is not. Hydraulic fracturing had already been finished,” said Scott Rotruck, of Chesapeake Energy. “We’d also like to apologize to any residents who may have been concerned or may have had their evening interrupted or otherwise inconvenienced; no incident or accident is acceptable.”

Officials with OSHA and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection remain on the scene as inspections continue.

DEP Set To Investigate After Gas Well Fire In Avella (2/23)
Probe To Begin In Avella Gas Well Fire
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Department of Environmental Protection
Chesapeake Appalachia, LLC

  • Pat

    Can anybody give me a list of the companies working on the site where the explosion was? I understand that Chesapeake energy was running the job but I would like to know what companies they used for all of the subcontracting and what business was in charge of the down hole drilling?

    • pat

      Thanks Marty do you know who the thru tubing company was on the job?

  • Noah Churchel

    I assume regional readers will take this two ways. It was good it was not the fracking process. It is bad that apparently all of these out of state companies have constructed timebombs across Pennsylvania.

    Kick them all out. I have a strong conviction that the natural gas will still be there in 5 years when we as a state agree that the methods and materials are transparent and safe.

    I suggest since Corbett opened up state lands for drilling, the first well should be on the Governor’s residence. Since he is all about drilling, I say we let him find out what happens in a fracking operation first hand. After a week or so of 24 hour lights, diesel engines, and workcrew noise he will understand the immediate problems. After all of his water becomes undrinkable then he can find out the regional environmental problems. When one of his family members contracts cancer he can find our personal problems with drilling and energy companies, and the toxins they use. I have already been through this three step process that I do not recommend for anyone.

    I had nothing bad to say about the man as attorney general. Maybe that will change as more of the underbelly of fracking and the damages caused come more to light. I would like to see how the AG office has handled fracking complaints for the past five years. I wonder if KDKA can find out the fracking complaint history of filed cases, and follow it up.

  • Mon River Towing

    How is this “not related to hydraulic fracturing?” It was frac fluid that ignited. It was fracking that caused it to be there sitting in the tanks. Did the definition of “related” change? Usual corporate america stance: never accept blame. I used to support marcellus shale drilling, but this stuff is toxic and has health disaster written all over it.

    • Sam

      Mon river towing: it is obvious that you know absolutely nothing about slick water fracing! Since when is water flammable? It’s people like you who do not care to learn the facts that give any opposing view of drilling a lack of credibility.

  • ljpj

    I see we are all still nit picking and throwing daggers! As I said before there are always pros and cons to everything please put your thoughts were they are suppose to be wiith then injured workers and pray for there recovery.

  • jim

    I feel terribly for the three men who were injured in this industrial incident. My prayers and thoughts go out to them and ther families. I also feel for the residents living near this and all wells that never imagined living next to a heavy industrial site that exposes them to the daily risks of industrial incidents and exposures. Did they have any choice in this matter? Where is this gas, that our state is so excited about, going? We need to use common sense. Shale gas extraction, in its current form of hydraulic fracturing, should not be done anywhere near homes or schools. If there was not a surplus of natural gas in this country and we desperately needed it to heat homes and power businesses I might feel that the risks were worth it If our country’s transportation system ran on natural gas and it was truly decreasing our independence on foreign fuels, I might feel the risk was worth it. The shale has been there forever and it will continue to stay trapped in the rocks until it is needed. Maybe by then, we could figure out how to protect the shale wokers and the citizens of this state.
    We all need to watch carefully and hold our state and local governments responsible for developing this resource in the safest way possible or we may all pay for their mistakes. Demand safety and common sense for our workers and our families. How many of you would want to live near or have your children go to school next to a heavy industrial operation? Wouldn’t you at least like a say so in this matter? I would. Thanks and let’s keep these men in our thoughts.

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