Maggie Kiely | The Eagle (Bryan, Texas)
NEW BADEN — Belinda Wilson was serving the lunch crowd Wednesday at New Baden General Store off Main Street when she heard loud explosions coming from somewhere nearby.
The noise was so loud, an off-the-clock employee came running from her home half a mile away to check on everyone because she thought something at the general store had exploded, Wilson said.
It didn’t take long for Wilson and her co-workers to learn the blasts had come from half a mile in the other direction, where crews had been working to close a dormant oil well.
One of the men was at work on top of a storage tank when something caused the container to explode, critically injuring the man, who was eventually life-flighted to a Houston hospital with severe burns, said Robertson County Sheriff’s Deputy Steve Misterek.
Authorities were dispatched to the oil well off Cazey Loop shortly after the first call came in at 12:09 p.m., Misterek said.
Details about the man, including his name, age and the company he worked for, were not available Wednesday evening, the deputy said.
Other specifics, such as the task the man was performing atop the tank or how the explosion is believed to have occurred, were being withheld while the incident was under investigation, he said.
Heavy black plumes of smoke from the explosion could be seen from more than eight miles outside of town.
Standing about 300 yards from the tank on the side of Texas 79 near Schultz Road, which was as close to the well as the public was allowed, bright orange flames could easily be seen engulfing the tank as fire crews monitored close by.
Misterek said emergency officials, having assessed the fire as being under control, had decided to allow the fire to burn out.
However, at about 3:30 p.m., fire crews from College Station with special training in extinguishing oil well fires arrived, and within an hour the fire had been put out.
The specialized fire units were hired by the well owner, Misterek said.
Volunteer firefighters from Franklin, Calvert, Bremond, Wheelock and Easterly responded to the explosion, along with the Texas Department of Public Safety and Texas Department of Transportation workers.