Man gets probation for obstructing probe in oil field death

October 15, 2021 GMT

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A former oil company maintenance manager was sentenced to 1 1/2 years of probation after pleading guilty to obstructing a federal investigation into the 2014 death of an oil field worker.

Stephen Reisinger, 51, was sentenced Thursday by U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland, who noted Reisinger has shown remorse.

Reisinger was working for Nabors Completion and Production Services Co. in Williston when 28-year-old Dustin Payne, a welder, died after an explosion.

Federal prosecutors had asked that Reisinger be imprisoned for 1 1/2 years, saying Reisinger’s lies to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration impeded the investigation and made it stretch on for years, the Bismarck Tribune reported.


Payne was working on an uncleaned tanker trailer that carried saltwater, a byproduct of oil production, and court documents show the fluid also contained hydrocarbons, which were still in the tank and contributed to the explosion. Payne was hit by a tank hatch and died five days later.

OSHA interviewed Reisinger, who prosecutors say made repeated false statements, including that he didn’t know about the hazards associated with saltwater. They also say he failed to adequately supervise welders and ensure Payne had a meter to test for explosive vapors.

Reisinger became teary in court as he recalled the time he spent visiting Payne in the hospital.

“I was with Dustin after the accident,” he said. “I just held his hand.”

The company Reisinger worked for is now known as C&J Well Services, and it pleaded guilty in 2019 to violating a federal safety standard. Hovland also oversaw that case, ordering a $500,000 fine and $1.6 million in restitution be paid to Payne’s estate.