March 9, 2022 — A federal grand jury has indicted the Texas oilfield company Aghorn Operating and its vice president after a gas leak killed a worker and his wife, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
In October 2019, Jacob Dean was called out to a pump house in Ector County to check a pump house. Once inside, he was overtaken by toxic H₂S (hydrogen sulfide) gas that was leaking from the pump site.
When Dean did not return home, his wife, Natalee Dean, called her husband. He did not answer his phone. So she put their two children in the car and drove out to check on him. Once she arrived, she walked up to the pump house and was also killed.
Investigators later determined that a pump had failed in the pump house, causing a leak of produced water containing hydrogen sulfide.
The pump house reportedly had eight H₂S monitors, according to court documents, but none of them were working on the night of the deaths.
Because the two children stayed in the car, they had only minimal exposure to the gas and survived. They are now in the custody of their grandparents.
The indictment names Aghorn Operating Inc. and Trent Day, the Vice President of both Aghorn and Kodiak Roustabout, Inc.
Kodiak reportedly provided oilfield support and maintenance services for Aghorn, according to the lawsuit.
Investigations by local law enforcement, the EPA and OSHA charged Aghorn Operating with knowingly releasing extremely hazardous substances into the air and endangering a person by placing them in imminent danger.
“Aghorn was aware that its produced water contained high amounts of H2S as well as the deadly nature of the gas,” according to the indictment.
Aghorn and Trent Day also “knowingly violated their general duty to prevent the accidental release” of hydrogen sulfide and also knowingly “placed another person in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury.”
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