Widow Sues Over Natural Gas Rig Explosion

Gas storage tanks at sunset

The widow of Kyle L. Rooke has filed a wrongful death case regarding an explosion at a gas drilling outside Pinedale on January 5, 2011. Mr. Rooke was severely burned and was pronounced dead at the rig site by the EMT’s who responded to the explosion. The suit was filed by Mrs. Rooke in the United States District Court in Cheyenne, Wyoming by her attorney, Robert P. Schuster of Jackson.

Mr. Rooke was an employee of Unit Drilling Company, an Oklahoma-based corporation. In addition to Unit Drilling, the suit named QEP Energy Company, the owner of the well, and Lyle Huff, Inc, a Montana consulting company. The suit alleges that a threaded connection failed because the threads were worn and obliterated to the point they could not withstand the drilling pressure. The connection exploded under the pressure and drilling mud jetted from the exposed opening, according to the suit. The drilling mud was primarily composed of diesel. But, the suit stated, the drilling mud also contained volatile gases that had mixed with the mud as it circulated through the depths of the 12,000 foot well. The gases and diesel ignited and Mr. Rooke was engulfed in the ensuing fire. He had not been provided with flame retardant clothing, a safety measure that had been recommended the year before by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Wyoming’s workplace fatality rate has been a multiple of the national fatality rate and, for most of the past decade, Wyoming has been ranked as the least safe state for workers among all fifty (50) states in the nation.

Mr. Rooke was survived by his wife, Brenda, and his son, James, of Drummond, Idaho, as well as his grandmother, mother, and four siblings. He was 42 years old at the time of his death.