Oil well explodes in Tuscarawas County, one dead

5:19 PM, Jul 16, 2012   |    comments
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BOLIVAR -- An oil well exploded on a farm just outside Bolivar in Tuscarawas County.

A 19-year-old man who was doing some painting and maintenance on the well and storage tank was killed in the blast.

His identity was being withheld by the Tuscarawas County Coroner.

The explosion around 9:50 a.m. Monday on State Route 212 sent pieces of the well and tank flying up to a quarter mile around the neighborhood.

"All of a sudden I heard a roar, and I thought, whoa!," says Dolores Kalman, who was driving to work and passed the site of the explosion at the very moment the well went up in flames.

"There was heat, unbelieveable heat," Kalman, 78, told WKYC. She said the searing heat could be felt inside her car, even though she had all the windows rolled up.

"My gosh, I thought what is that," Kalman continued, "and then I saw a great big fireball and I thought I gotta get out of here.  I just took off."

Brandie Hanley, who lives right across State Route 212, thought it was an earthquake.

"It popped open our back door and the dogs actually didn't bark for once," she remembered. "They just sat up and were scared. It sounded like somebody actually hit the side of the house."

A piece of pipe landed in Hanley's yard and debris was scattered across a quarter mile area.

"All well sites like that have lots of pipes, fencing, metal objects, things like that," said Bolivar Fire Captain Marty Huth. "And from the force of the explosion it blew all that out here as well."

Huth said his and nearly a dozen other fire departments had their hands full for an hour trying to contain the raging flames, that reached 50 feet into the air.

"We actually let the well portion burn because if you put that fire out on a well, there's a chance for larger, more powerful explosion to occur," Huth explained.

Dr. James Hubert, the Tuscarawas County Coroner, says a law enforcement officer on the scene was treated at the hospital due to injuries from breathing in fumes from the explosion.

He also told WKYC a greater disaster was narrowly averted. He pointed to a huge piece of the oil storage tank which flew, in flames, more than a hundred yards and landed near the road. It burned the grass for a hundred feet around.

"It could have been extremely worse," Hubert acknowledged. "It's a residentail area as yuou know, and had that traveled slightly to the east it would have been in a group of homes next door. One of them happens to be a group home."

Two of the nearby residences are home to 12 people who have disabilities. Only one resident was home at the time of the explosion, and neighbors made sure he and staff members of the group homes made it away from the scene safely.

The state fire marshal and local fire departments are trying to determine what caused the oil and gas well to explode. Captain Huth says it was a standard, vertical well which had been on the property for a number of years.

Lawrence Township, where the explosion took place, border the village of Bolivar, and is 10 miles south of Canton and Massillon and 10 miles north of Dover-New Philadelphia.






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