Environment & Energy Publishing released a story today outlining the suspicious death of a Bandlands Power Fuels worker named Brandon Belk in Watford City, North Dakota. Belk’s parents stated in the interview that they believe his death was caused by inhaling solvents and other petroleum products while cleaning a frack tank. The autopsy says that he died from pneumonia or fluid in his lungs, which remains consistent with their theory. There were unfortunately also traces of methadone and citalopram in his system. The autopsy, his former employer and OSHA all have declared his death a result of the methadone (there was not a lethal dose found), and as a result they have denied death benefits to his 13-year-old daughter.
While this mystery still has yet to be solved, one thing is for sure– safety is an important and too often overlooked factor in many worksites in the Bakken. The company he had been working for claims that he’d been using TCI 105 H.D. to clean the fracking tank, which requires users to be wearing a respirator. There were also an excess of petroleum and drilling waste reside in the tank. Belk should’ve been wearing an oxygen mask while working in the tank. Following the task Belk and other workers complained of sore throats, a lack of breath and numb faces and tongues. Belk later passed out and vomited.
However, the forensic examiner William Massello III states that sick individuals injesting a ‘lethal amount’ of drugs like methane can make his death ‘consistent’ to a drug overdose. To read more about Brandon Belk’s incredible life, compelling story and the mystery that surrounds his death, visit the E&E website.