Zack Ponce, The Carlsbad Current-Argus (Carlsbad, N.M.)
CARLSBAD — A man was injured after being struck by equipment Wednesday at an oil rig in Eddy County. Emergency Fire Services Coordinator Robert Brader said the man was flown by helicopter to Carlsbad Medical Center. His condition was unknown. Brader said the incident was being investigated by the Eddy County Sheriff’s Department. Calls by the Current-Argus to the sheriff’s department on Wednesday and Thursday weren’t immediately returned. The incident followed Wednesday’s fatal explosion in Orla, Texas.
Authorities on Thursday identified the second victim of the incident as Roberto Andrade Magdaleno, 41 of Roswell.
Magdaleno was killed when a pressure buildup in a separator at an oil and gas production site caused an explosion near the small Texas town located approximately 50 miles from Carlsbad. The Loving County Sheriff’s Department had initially suspected Magdaleno was a resident of El Paso before a friend called to identify the body late Wednesday evening, according to Sheriff Billy Hopper. Authorities had identified the other victim on Wednesday as Amos Ortega, 46, of Artesia.
“This is a sad day for Loving County,” Sheriff’s Deputy Chris Busse said on Wednesday. The two men were the first victims of oilfield accidents in the county this year, and Loving County has had around six fatalities because of industry operations since late 2005.
Texas medical examiners have begun performing autopsies of the two victims and the bodies will be released to local funeral homes in Roswell and Artesia once the investigation has concluded. The sheriff’s department believes that both men were close enough to the separator that they were killed immediately after the incident.
Nine other workers were injured in the accident but suffered only minor cuts, lacerations and bruising from shrapnel pushed into the air by the explosion. They were examined at the scene by medical personnel but refused transportation to a local hospital. Busse said there were up to 15 people on site at the time of the incident.
Loving County is the most sparsely populated county in the United States, according to Hopper, who said the county has just 80 residents despite being valued at $650 million a year thanks to the oil boom in the Permian Basin.
Carlsbad resident Juwana Kinniburgh said her boyfriend, an employee of AmeriField, was at the site at the site during the explosion. He had to drive six miles to get a cell signal to call 911 because of the lack of communications infrastructure, she said.
Hopper said it took his deputies about 40 minutes to respond to the scene once the emergency call was placed. Hopper called the spotty cell reception in the oil field a “safety hazard” but said he didn’t think a faster response could have saved the lives of Magdaleno and Ortega.
“No, nothing would have been different,” Hopper said.
Glass and debris were visible around the site and the explosion shattered window shields and deployed the air bags of several vehicles at the scene, Busse said. The Loving County Sheriff’s office reported a large number of calls from residents miles around the site who said they felt the concussion from the explosion.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, along with the Texas Railroad Commission, will open an investigation into the incident. RKI Exploration and Production, who authorities said was the company operating the site, will conduct its own independent investigation, according to Hopper.
RKI, which is headquartered in Oklahoma City and has offices in Carlsbad, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday or Thursday. Employees at the Carlsbad offices declined comment on the incident.
Reporter Zack Ponce can be reached at (575) 689-7402. ___