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Man exposed to H2S in fatal oilfield accident; OSHA rep didn't visit site for nearly a week

MANNING -- Dickinson man Ryan Provancher was exposed to hydrogen sulfide in the Wednesday oilfield accident that led to his death two days later, according to a Dunn County Sheriff's Office report.

The Bismarck office of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration did not dispatch a staff member to see the Driven Services worksite until nearly a week after the incident.

Law requires an employer to contact OSHA about a workplace fatality within eight hours of the death, so OSHA heard of Provancher's death about 11 p.m. last Friday. The office was closed the following Monday for Columbus Day, and then had to call back a furloughed worker who visited the site Tuesday, said Eric Brooks, area director for the OSHA office.

The incident is still under investigation so Brooks said he could not elaborate on what the staff member observed at the worksite.

Co-worker Eric Williams told Dunn County deputies that a pipe broke loose and "shot out a cloud of H2S gas" as he and Provancher, 25, were replacing pipes inside a building. The incident was reported at about 9:20 a.m. last Wednesday at the worksite north of Dickinson in rural Dunn County.

Williams said the gas hit him the most, not Provancher. He fled the building immediately and thought Provancher was behind him, but when he realized Provancher was still inside, he ran back, dragged him out and began CPR.

A Killdeer ambulance crew member arrived 8 or 9 minutes later and took over CPR. Soon after, a Killdeer ambulance arrived and took Provancher to St. Joseph's Hospital in Dickinson.

He died there last Friday. Hospital spokeswoman Stephanie Fong said she could not elaborate on the exact cause of death.

A representative of Driven Services said he would not comment while the incident was under investigation.

According to Provancher's obituary, he had worked in the oilfield for seven years, most recently as a roustabout foreman for Driven Services. He was born and raised in Dickinson.

Hydrogen sulfide, a colorless gas with a "rotten egg" smell, occurs naturally in crude petroleum and natural gas, according to an OSHA fact sheet.