Gas Well Explosion Claims One Life

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BOLIVAR TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- Investigators in Tuscarawas County say a worker was painting and performing routine maintenance at an oil and gas well site in Bolivar when it suddenly exploded around 9:30 Monday morning.

The worker, whose identity is not being released pending notification of his family, was pronounced dead at the scene.

The force of the blast shook nearby homes and sent a storage tank flying an estimated 100 feet up into the air.

Brandie Hanley told Fox 8, “it popped open our back doors and the dogs actually didn't bark for once, they actually just sat up and were scared, it sounded like somebody actually hit the side of the house. But then it was just instant fire and thick black smoke and whenever the black smoke actually covered the sun, it looked orange."

Firefighters from at least eight departments responded to the scene with extreme caution.

"We actually let the well portion burn because if you put that fire out in the well, there's a chance for a larger, more powerful explosion to occur also," said Bolivar Fire Captain Marty Huth.

Authorities say the explosion happened in close proximity to a group home, but fortunately no one there was injured. They also say a co-worker of the victim had left the scene earlier.

Captain Huth told Fox 8, "apparently what they did is that they had a trailer with the tools, paint and things of that nature, whatever they were using to clean the well, and the one worker, which is common practice, did leave and left the other worker behind."

The State Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating the cause of the explosion. The worker’s death is also the focus of a probe by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Stay with Fox 8 News as more details become available.