Work-Over Rig Explosion Case Settled
Williams, PLLC partner Justin L. Williams and Pagel Weikum partner Jeff Weikum successfully represented the parents of a 21-year-old Wisconsin man killed at an explosion on a work-over rig in North Dakota. The confidential settlement obtained by Williams and Weikum is believed to be one of the largest of its kind in North Dakota history. The case was settled through mediation by Williams without the necessity of filing suit. Brendan Wegner was killed while working in the derrick of the rig when the well exploded. The case also involves severe burn injuries to two other drilling crew workers. According to Weikum and Williams they expect to mediate the second case in April of this year. The terms of the settlement were confidential. Williams said that his clients, Peggy and Kevin Wegner the parents of Brendan Wegner are able to say they are satisfied with the terms of the settlement.
Williams says that the case is a prime example of what is happening to cause catastrophic injuries and deaths in the oil field in North Dakota. There is no reason that Brendan Wegner should not still be alive today. The work-over crew had been rushed from well to well and had gotten into the habit of not following safe drilling practices. On this location, the BOPs were installed with the hydraulics hooked up backwards. When the danger occurred and the crew went to close the BOPs, nothing happened. Brendan Wegner was left in the derrick hundreds of feet above the ground trying to get down by using the “Geronimo” line when the extra time that would have enabled him to escape, which should have been provided by the BOP’s closing and isolating the well, did not happen.
Williams says that government regulations and industry standards require that the BOP’s are tested every time they are hooked up at a new location or whenever there is a crew change. If the BOP’s had been tested, the crew would have realized they weren’t working and would have corrected the problem. That would have provided Brendan enough time to escape, and he would be alive today.
Williams said that the defendants in the case blamed all of the actions leading to the death on the employer, but the evidence showed the operator was aware of the fact the drilling crew was not performing the required BOP testing and had knowledge of the dangerous well conditions prior to the accident. This tragedy was entirely preventable, and the defendants acknowledged that by settling the case.