A storage tank at an oil and gas well site exploded and shot flames at least 50 feet into the air Monday, killing an employee, officials said.
Investigators were trying to determine the cause of the blast, which happened near Bolivar, OH, about 65 miles south of Cleveland. The employee had been performing maintenance on the tank, which was adjacent to the well, said Tuscarawas County coroner Jim Hubert. Bolivar Fire and Rescue confirmed the man was painting the tank.
Hubert said the man was “in the immediate vicinity” of the receiving tank for the oil when it exploded. He said a law enforcement officer underwent treatment after feeling the effects of petroleum fumes from the explosion.
Nathan Mutschelknaus, an employee at a nearby group home, said he felt the ground shake and looked toward the oil well. Mutschelknaus said the cover of the storage tank shot about 100 feet into the air and fuel leaked down a driveway and into a field.
“I was out back, pressure-washing the porch and moving some of the furniture when the ground started to shake,” he said. “I was looking over at the oil well, wondering what was shaking. Next thing I know, I heard the loud explosion and felt the shockwave.”
Mutschelknaus said he saw the tank’s green cap land about 50 yards away from its original location.
State fire marshal spokesman Shane Cartmill said officials were working with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to have a better assessment on the cause of the explosion.
Hazardous-materials crews went out to contain the fuel spill.