GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) — Officials say two Colorado men employed by a Grand Junction drilling firm died in a May 13 underground explosion while they were working at a dam in Oklahoma.
The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reports that 22-year-old Hayden Tucker of Grand Junction and 48-year-old Philip E. Hughes Jr. of South Fork died in the incident, according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Oklahoma.
Tucker and Hughes were working for DA Smith Drilling Co. when the explosion occurred about 80 feet (24 meters) down a shaft at the Robert S. Kerr Dam in northeastern Oklahoma, about 45 miles (72 kilometers) east of Tulsa. A third employee with DA Smith Drilling was working higher in the shaft and sustained minor injuries.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the cause of the accident.
The Sentinel reports that, according to the Grand River Dam Authority, which operates the dam, a preliminary investigation suggests the explosion may have been caused by a pocket of naturally occurring gas underground. Tucker and Hughes may have been addressing the gas issue when the explosion occurred.
The authority had contracted with Oklahoma State University’s Boone Pickens School of Geology to study the base of the dam, which had sustained scouring. The university hired DA Smith, which specializes in core drilling, to check the integrity and bedrock contact of the dam.
DA Smith has declined comment.
Dam Authority spokesperson Justin Alberty has said the dam was not damaged in the explosion.