One Man Killed, Another Critically Injured in Castaic Gas Well

AP Wire Service

CASTAIC, Calif. (AP) – A man was killed and another critically injured Saturday when an oil and gas well exploded in a fireball, officials said.

The body of a 43-year-old man, who originally had been reported missing after the 2 a.m. blaze, was found in the afternoon behind an oil rig near the well, said Brian Jordan, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

The man’s identity was withheld pending notification of his family, the county coroner’s office said.

Delton Russin, 35, of Bakersfield, suffered burns to his face and upper body. He was listed in critical but stable condition at Grossman Burn Center at Sherman Oaks Hospital, said hospital spokeswoman Lisa Barry.

Two methane gas explosions and an oil leak occurred at the well in a rugged canyon area 40 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. The cause was under investigation.

About 75 firefighters were dispatched to fight the blaze.

Also called in was a private Texas firefighting crew, known as “Boots and Coots,” that specializes in capping well fires.

However, flames continued to spew from the well Saturday night.

“The well cannot be capped because it is natural, coming out of the ground,” Jordan said. “They have to take welders, cut the oil derrick in half, remove it and then they can begin to cap or seal the well.”

The blaze was not an environmental hazard, he said.

The two men worked for CAZA Drilling Inc., a drilling contractor in Denver that has a fleet of 46 rigs.

Representatives from CAZA said they would have no comment until Monday.