5 missing after Oklahoma rig explosion, emergency official says

Five people are missing after a fiery explosion ripped through an eastern Oklahoma drilling rig Monday morning, sending plumes of black smoke into the air and leaving a derrick crumpled on the ground, an emergency official said.

Pittsburg County emergency manager director Kevin Enloe told television station KOTV that at least three medical helicopters landed at the site following the explosion. He said five people were missing.

Aerial footage from midday Monday showed several fires still burning at the site and the derrick, a towering metal structure above the well, collapsed onto the ground.

The explosion occurred west of the town of Quinton, about 160 kilometres southeast of Tulsa.

More than 20 employees were at the well site when the explosion occurred, said Pittsburg County Sheriff Chris Morris.

“Most everybody was taken off the site and taken to a secure site here in Quinton,” he said.

Morris confirmed that five people were unaccounted for, but he said could not confirm any fatalities or injuries.

Amy Elliott, a spokesperson for the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office, said she wouldn’t be able to confirm any fatalities until the fire is extinguished and investigators can probe the site.

“I pray there’s not, but we just don’t know yet,” she said.

Oklahoma Office of Emergency Management spokesperson Keli Cain told The Associated Press that she couldn’t immediately confirm any injuries or fatalities.

Cain said state environmental and regulatory officials have been notified and were heading to the scene. A local emergency dispatcher said the sheriff, undersheriff and county emergency management director are all on the scene.

The drilling site was being operated by Oklahoma City-based Red Mountain Energy, said Matt Skinner, a spokespeson for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, which regulates oil and gas operators. Telephone and email messages left with Red Mountain were not immediately returned.

Skinner said a company that specializes in rig fires and other well control problems also responded to the blaze.

Drilling Rig Explosion Oklahoma

Smoke billows from the site of a gas well fire near Quinton, Okla., early Monday. Five people are missing after a fiery explosion, an emergency official said. (Kevin Harvison/The McAlester News-Capital/Associated Press)

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