Two workers jolted in explosive Prudhoe Bay fire

Posted: Thursday, July 19, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Two Prudhoe Bay workers escaped serious injury when an oil rig caught fire as it was being moved.

The workers, employed by Nabors Alaska Drilling Inc., were thrown in the accident, which occurred about 10:20 p.m. Tuesday when one of the rig's massive tires exploded. Jim Brown, a Nabors official, said the tire burst about the time hydraulic fuel that powers the drive system caught fire, triggering the explosion of a second tire.

The workers were identified as Adam Corneliussen of Wasilla and Richard Rhoades of Bowie, Texas. Brown said they were among about a dozen workers transporting the rig.

Brown said the pair was flown to Anchorage to be checked for injuries at Providence Alaska Medical Center. Corneliussen was treated for minor injuries and released. Rhoades was shaken but not injured, Brown said.

''The thing we're most pleased with is that our employees are safe,'' he said.

Representatives from Nabors, the tire manufacturer, rig manufacturer and equipment moving system were heading to the North Slope Wednesday to investigate, Brown said. He declined to name the brand of the tires.

''We don't want to create unnecessary publicity at this time,'' Brown said, adding that the cause of the accident is unclear.

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation also was investigating.

The accident occurred as the rig was being moved from one drill site to another, said Ronnie Chappell, a spokesman for BP Exploration (Alaska). Firefighters used foam to put out the blaze at 1:40 a.m. and remained on the scene throughout the night.

Some of the foam landed in a nearby lake. It was contained with absorbent boom and was being vacuumed out, Chappell said.

Brown said about five gallons of hydraulic fluid from a tank on the rig spilled on the gravel access road.

Most of the spilled fluid burned in the fire, said John Dixon, the DEC officer on the scene.

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