One of the workers injured last week in a Jonah Field explosion remained in critical condition at a Utah hospital Monday.
Brandon Chadwick, 23, was flown by helicopter from the scene of the blast at an Encana drilling site 35 miles south of Pinedale to University Hospital in Salt Lake City on Friday. He remained there Monday with what his fiancee described as significant burns covering between 12 and 20 percent of his body.
“It will change him forever,” said Makayla Whitney, 19.
The couple planned on getting married next summer. That date will likely need to be postponed with Chadwick facing a lengthy recovery, she said.
Chadwick and four other men, ages 19 to 51, were injured when a battery of condensate tanks exploded at Encana’s Antelope 91-29H facility. Condensate is a byproduct of natural gas production.
The blast appears to be a result of welding work being done at the site, according to a preliminary investigation by the Wyoming Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Three of the five workers had been treated and released by Saturday. The fourth was still in serious condition at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, according to an Encana spokeswoman. The identities of all four were not released.
Pinedale, a town of around 2,000 on the western slope of the Wind River Mountains, serves as a hub for energy production in the nearby Jonah Field, one of the country’s largest onshore natural gas fields.
The shock of the blast was still being felt around town Monday.
“It has deeply effected everybody,” said Ana Schofield, manager at Obo’s Market and Deli. “Everybody knows somebody that was affected.”
Whitney is one of four of the deli’s employees with significant others who work in the gas field, Schofield said. When they first learned of the explosion Friday, all frantically dialed their loved ones to see if they were all right. Then the news that Chadwick was injured came through.
“We’re pretty devastated for both her and Brandon,” Schofield said, adding that the community has begun to rally around the couple.
“We will do whatever we can to make things as comfortable as we can for these kids,” she said.
Work at the drilling site has been halted while Wyoming OSHA conducts its investigation. The event has been categorized a catastrophe, a designation lent to accidents in which three or more workers are hospitalized, said OSHA spokeswoman Hayley McKee.
Five of the six condensate tanks at the site were destroyed in the blast. The ensuing fire took nearly three hours to contain. A nearby drilling rig was not impacted.
The human impact was far greater. Chadwick had a breathing tube removed Monday, Whitney said. He is now talking, but is in considerable pain.
A collection has been taken up in his name. Those interested can make donations out to “Benefit for Brandon Chadwick” at 1st Bank locations in Pinedale and Star Valley.
* An earlier version of this story misspelled Obo's Market and Deli.