Monday’s explosion in southeast Oklahoma sent plumes of black smoke in the air above the drilling site and left the charred rig crumpled on the ground.
The rig fire near the town of Quinton was extinguished later that night but emergency workers were not able to look for the missing men until the next day when the site had cooled down enough.
Pittsburg County Sheriff Chris Morris, during a news conference on Tuesday, said once the natural gas drilling rig was stabilized following the blast and subsequent fires, employees from the state medical examiner’s office went into the wreckage and recovered the bodies in about two hours.
“The bodies were located in the area where they were presumed to be working in, what they call the ‘dog house,'” Morris said. He was referring to a room on the rig floor that serves as an office for the drilling crew.
Authorities said 16 people escaped the explosion without major injuries. One person was airlifted to a hospital.
The cause of the blast is not known yet. State and federal officials, who are working with the companies involved, have launched an investigation.
The Associated Press reports:
Nationwide, there were 101 oil and gas-related fatalities in 14 states in 2014, the most recent year for which data is available from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Most of those occurred in Texas, Oklahoma and North Dakota, all three states with robust industry activity.
Most fatal incidents involved workers from servicing companies, but drilling companies accounted for 27 fatalities, the second most of any oil and gas industry group, according to the study.
A total of 15 workers were killed in Oklahoma while working in mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction jobs in 2014, including six that involved transportation incidents, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The workers who were killed include three from Oklahoma: Matt Smith of McAlester, Parker Waldridge of Crescent and Roger Cunningham from Seminole. Also killed were Josh Ray of Fort Worth, Texas; and Cody Risk of Wellington, Colorado.