No cause found for ignition of fatal Colorado gas site blast

January 8, 2020 GMT

DURANGO, Colo. (AP) — Investigation agencies in Colorado have not determined what ignited a well site explosion last year that killed a worker.

Randy Yellowman, 47, was working as a contracted truck driver when his body was found by ranchers after a storage tank exploded at the natural gas well pad near Durango in January 2019, The Durango Herald reported Tuesday.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined his employer, Overright Trucking Inc., more than $10,000 this summer for safety violations and procedural failings that the agency said likely led to his death.

Oil and gas regulators issued a notice of violation to the Denver-based company that owned the well pad, which could result in thousands of dollars in violations for Catamount Energy Partners LLC, officials said.

Yellowman’s family also filed a wrongful death lawsuit seeking compensatory and punitive damages against the Farmington-based company that built the tank, American Manufacturing Equipment, officials said.

The companies involved either did not return calls or declined to comment.

Yellowman lived in a small community between Farmington and Shiprock and had been working at his job for 17 years, officials said. He was assigned a routine procedure to transfer water from the storage tank to his truck, but the tank exploded when he was was almost finished, officials said.

“A lot of things don’t add up to me,” said Brad Smith, Yellowman’s supervisor with Overright.

Police from the Southern Ute Indian Tribe were the first at the location of the explosion because the well site is on land within the tribe’s jurisdiction, but tribal police handed the investigation over, authorities said.

The federal labor safety administration and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission did not determine what ignited to cause the explosion, investigators said.

“At this point, all the agencies can do is make sure rules are in place to help prevent future occurrences,” commission spokeswoman Megan Castle said.

Yellowman’s family declined to comment.