WDAY: The News Leader

Published May 01, 2014, 04:49 AM

Montana man dies on well site, apparently from hydrogen sulfide

WILLISTON -- A 20-year-old man died this week at a well site 5 miles south of Williston.

By: Forum News Service, INFORUM, Forum News Service

WILLISTON -- A 20-year-old man died this week at a well site 5 miles south of Williston.

Zachary Buckles of Glasgow, Mont., was found unresponsive at the site and died sometime between late Sunday night and about 5 a.m. Monday, said Eric Brooks, area director for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The state medical examiner found no obvious signs of the cause of death but is awaiting lab results for hydrogen sulfide levels, according to a news release from the McKenzie County Sheriff’s Department. Hydrogen sulfide, or H2S, is a naturally occurring gas in crude oil that causes irritability at low concentrations and death at high concentrations.

Since Buckles was found over the open cover of a crude oil tank, “it is believed that he died as a result of H2S gas exposure,” the department said.

Buckles apparently was performing tank gauging operations at the time of his death. He was employed by Black Gold Testers, a subcontractor on the Continental Resources-leased site. Continental spokeswoman Kristin Thomas Miskovsky confirmed in an email that Buckles was a flowtester working on a Continental well site.

An OSHA investigator was on site Monday.

This is the 38th oilfield death investigated by OSHA since fiscal year 2010, Brooks said.

The original report was for a party trapped under a rolled-over semi truck, according to the sheriff’s department release.

“It was discovered upon responders’ arrival at the scene that the incident was not a traffic crash, but was in fact a deceased male on top of a tank at an oil location,” according to the department.