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Two workers killed, two seriously injured in oil rig blast

Last week, an oil rig owned by a Houston, Texas, company, Oasis Petroleum Inc., exploded and killed two workers in western North Dakota. Two additional workers were severely injured in the blast, the Houston Chronicle reported.

The explosion occurred near Williston, North Dakota, in an area that has been experiencing what has been called the biggest oil boom in the country's recent history. There were two oil field-related fires and explosions in the area on Wednesday, one being small and the other being large. No one was hurt in the smaller fire.

The deadly bigger fire occurred at an oil rig around 5:40 p.m., officials said. One worker died at the scene and another worker died the next day after being flown to a hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota. Two additional workers remain hospitalized with serious injuries at the St. Paul hospital, the Houston Chronicle reported.

As of yet, the cause of the explosion has not been determined, but a spokeswoman with the state Department of Mineral resources said that no hazardous material or oil escaped from the well.

Oasis Petroleum Inc., the Houston-based oil company, had been producing oil from the site for about a month, a spokesman said. An investigation will surely follow to determine the cause of the explosion.

The second smaller fire was determined to have been caused at a pumping unit on a tank that separates saltwater from crude oil when a spark ignited and was quickly put out.

Wednesday's fatal accident makes the second and third drilling-related deaths in North Dakota since July 1, the director of the North Dakota Workforce Safety and Insurance agency reported. So far there have been five drilling-related deaths in the state during the 2011 fiscal year, which is up from three total in 2010, he said.

As the oil boom in the northern Midwest continues, it is imperative that oil companies take safety measures to prevent more tragic accidents like this one. If the company responsible for the drilling site was negligent in any way, it is possible that it could face wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits.

Source: The Houston Chronicle, "2 killed in oil rig explosion in North Dakota," James MacPherson, Sept. 15, 2011.

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