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Cleanup from gas well fire continues; family ID's missing worker

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Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, 2:54 p.m.
 

A worker missing since a gas well exploded a week ago in rural Greene County is a former resident of Warren County in Northwestern Pennsylvania, a family member of the man said.

Ian McKee, 27, has been unaccounted for since the Chevron well in Dunkard caught fire on Feb. 11. Two of three well heads burned until Saturday.

Chevron officials said too much gas is being released to allow crews or state police to examine the site. Neither Chevron nor state police would discuss McKee or verify his identity.

“Until we can gain access and determine if the missing person is in fact there, we are not releasing any names at this point,” said Trooper Stefani Plume, a police spokeswoman. “We would never want to assume that the information given to us is correct and release misinformation.”

The family member who confirmed McKee's identity declined further comment.

Friends gathered for a candlelight vigil on Thursday to honor McKee in Warren, a town of about 9,500 people between Pittsburgh and Buffalo, N.Y.

Crews continued to install and test firefighting equipment with the hope of removing a charred crane that had reignited gas, said John Sanclemente, Chevron's regional drilling and completions manager. Workers installed heat shields around a third well that did not burn, he said.

“We are still working hard on plans for well intervention and the capping process,” Sanclemente said.

Specialized firefighters from Wild Well Control in Houston could begin capping the well by the end of the week. Sanclemente could not say what caused the fire or estimate how much gas escaped.

“We're still very early in the investigation,” he said.

Chevron spokesman Trip Oliver defended the company's decision to distribute free pizza vouchers to residents affected by the incident.

“We offered a token of our appreciation for their inconvenience,” Oliver said, noting that Chevron employees went door-to-door to talk with people. “We talked to them about what we were doing and what our plans are. They really appreciated that we visited them in person and addressed their concerns” about traffic, noise and safety.

Oliver estimated that employees visited about 30 homes, distributing Bobtown Pizza vouchers during the visits.

The pizza shop in the small town of Bobtown near the gas well provided food for workers and others at the site, Oliver said.

“We thought it was important to support a local business,” he said.

Jim Scritchfield, co-owner of the pizza shop that opened in January, said he appreciated the business. Chevron officials paid for 100 pizzas and soft drinks, he said.

“They didn't have to buy the community pizzas,” said Scritchfield, 48, of Dilliner.

Along with three people who used their vouchers, Scritchfield said he heard from a number of anti-drilling advocates who urged him to not accept Chevron's money.

“They've been nothing but nice to us,” he said of the company.

Jason Cato is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7936 or jcato@tribweb.com.

 

 
 


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