Updated 5:12 p.m.
State medical authorities have confirmed that five oil-field workers died after an explosion and fire at a natural gas drilling site in southeastern Oklahoma on Monday.
A preliminary investigation suggests all five men likely died on the drilling rig close to where the explosion and fire started near the town of Quinton, 100 miles south of Tulsa. One worker was burned and taken by helicopter to the hospital. 16 other workers made it off the rig site safely.
"From what I was told from many of the survivors, there was an explosion, they heard a loud boom, they seen fire and they ran. Everybody was trying to survive," said Pittsburg County Sheriff Chris Morris.
Federal authorities are investigating. The cause of the explosion and fire is not yet known. The well is operated by Red Mountain Energy. Patterson-UTI was doing the drilling.
Three of the workers who died lived in Oklahoma; the two other men were from Colorado and Texas.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court today also struck down a portion of the state’s workers compensation law, ruling 8-0 that oil and gas companies can be sued when workers are injured or killed.
Five oil field workers are missing after an explosion and fire Monday at a natural gas drilling site in southeastern Oklahoma.
Joe Wertz of StateImpact Oklahoma reports for NPR's Newscast unit:
"The explosion buckled the drilling rig operating near a small town 100 miles south of Tulsa and fueled a smoke plume that was visible for miles. In a statement, the company operating the drilling rig said it wasn't sure what caused the explosion and fire. One burned worker was taken to a hospital by helicopter. Sixteen other workers made it off the rig safely."
Workers were "pretty shook up," Pittsburg County Sheriff Chris Morris told journalists at a news conference. "It's a pretty dramatic deal to go through."
The county's Emergency Manager Kevin Enloe said first responders searched the surrounding area for the missing workers, but haven't been able to get within a hundred feet of the well fire.
A statement released Monday night by emergency management said the fire is out.
Amy Elliott, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma medical examiner's office tells The Associated Press:
"Confirmation of any fatalities wasn't expected to be possible until the fire was extinguished and investigators could get to the scene of the explosion. I pray there's not, but we just don't know yet," Elliott said."
The drilling rig belonged to Houston-based Patterson-UTI Energy. Red Mountain Energy was operating the site.