Two Oil Workers Killed in West Texas Blast were Subcontractors

The two workers who died in an explosion at an oilfield in West Texas Wednesday morning were working for contractor firms, according to the Sheriff of Loving County.

Speaking to Rigzone Thursday morning, Sheriff Billy B. Hopper confirmed that two men had died and nine other workers were injured. He said that the workers were employed by two contractor firms, one of which was a testing company, that were carrying out operations on behalf of RKI Exploration and Production – the owner of the oilfield.

"None of the injured went to the hospital. Of the nine they had a lot of scrapes. Flying debris hit them," Sheriff Hopper said.

The workers were changing a wellhead when the explosion occurred due to a buildup of pressure. 

"There was actually not any fire involved. It was just an explosion of the gas," Sheriff Hopper said, explaining that health and safety authorities were investigating the incident.

"The Railroad Commission and OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] were both there yesterday and they will be back tomorrow."

One of the victims was named Wednesday as Amos Ortega of Artesia, New Mexico. Sheriff Hopper said that his department managed to get in touch with a family member of the second deceased man around 10pm last night local time.

"It's very unusual for something like this to happen. This is the first person we've had die in the county in about a year," added Sheriff Hopper, who said that oil and gas exploration and drilling activity was common in the county.


A former engineer, Jon is an award-winning editor who has covered the technology, engineering and energy sectors since the mid-1990s. Email Jon at


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