Local News

Wednesday, Oct 03 2012 05:51 PM

Man dies in oil field water tank, another suffers broken ankle

BY JOHN COX AND REBECCA KHEEL Californian staff writers jcox@bakersfield.com, rkheel@bakersfield.com

A welder died and a superintendent was rushed to a hospital with a leg injury after a Wednesday morning accident inside a water tank in an Oildale oil field.

Authorities said the accident occurred when a temporary platform the two men were standing on gave way at about 9:30 a.m.

The welder, 54-year-old Barry Snelson of Oildale, suffered a head injury and the superintendent fractured his ankle, said Dean Fryer, a spokesman for Cal-OSHA, which is investigating the accident.

The superintendent was not identified. Fryer said both men were working for Brahma Group Inc., an engineering and contracting firm based in Salt Lake City.

Brahma could not be reached for comment.

While details remain sketchy and agencies on the scene provided sometimes contradictory accounts, Fryer said the two workers were testing the tank at the time of the accident.

"What they were doing was bringing water, pumping water into the tank to see where there may be leaks," he said.

Kern County Fire Capt. Eric Coughran said the men were cleaning up after a welding repair job from the night before.

Coughran said the man with the leg injury was pulled out with a harness about an hour after the accident. He was taken to Kern Medical Center.

Shortly after, the other man was pulled out. He was then pronounced dead at the scene, Coughran said.

The tank measures 15 feet high and 10 feet wide with an 18-inch opening for entry and exit.

The tank is part of Live Oak Cogen, a 46 megawatt, natural gas-fired power plant located in an oil field about 1 1/2 miles west of South Granite Road. In addition to generating electricity, the facility sells steam for heavy oil production nearby.

Snelson's widow, Diane, said he was a safety-conscious, honest family man who was "excited" to join Brahma earlier this year after being without full-time work for a few months.

"He loves the company that he works for, loves all the people that he was working with. They're an awesome company," she said.

Snelson had worked as a welder since the age of 18, she said, describing him as "very safety oriented and very easy-going gentleman."

The couple have three children: Nicole, 30, living in Clovis; Julie 28, in South Carolina; and Anthony, 25, who lives with his parents.

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