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Second worker dies from Antero gas well blast

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A second worker has died of injuries received in an explosion earlier this month at an Antero Resources natural gas well in Doddridge County, officials said Monday.

Jason Mearns, 37, of Beverly, died Sunday in the burn unit of West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh, according to a spokeswoman for the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office.

Mearns was employed by Nabors Completion & Production Services Co., one of three Antero contract companies who had five workers hurt in the incident, according to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Last week, worker Tommy Paxton, 45, of Walton, died. He was employed by another of the contract firms, C&R Downhole Drilling, according to OSHA. The other contract company was Willowbend Investments.

The incident, which happened at about 4 a.m. on a Sunday, occurred near the end of the process of drilling and completing the well -- prior to commercial natural gas production -- as water and chemicals used in the process were coming back to the surface, a company official has said.

Between 2003 and 2011, the most recent figures available, at least 17 workers in West Virginia's oil and gas industry were killed on the job, according to an analysis by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Officials with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection ordered Antero to provide a report by Wednesday that "demonstrates knowledge and understanding as to the cause of the July 7 incident" and "demonstrates Antero's ability to safely resume operations" at the site. The company is also required to explain "future preventative measures that will safeguard from similar future incidents."

Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kward@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.


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