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Oil companies fined in death of Hebron man

After months of investigation following the death of a man on an oil rig near Killdeer in April, two area companies have been issued thousands of dollars in proposed penalties.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued citations to Black Hills Trucking, Inc. and Nabors Drilling USA LP, after Larry Due, 64, Hebron, was killed while assisting in the set-up of an oil drilling rig, according to OSHA on Friday.

Due, an employee of Black Hills Trucking, Inc., was allegedly installing the rig's floor decking while the drilling contractor, Nabors Drilling USA, Inc., was hoisting a bridle line and equalizer to be secured in the rig's derrick, according to OSHA documents.

"The rigging failed and dropped the load approximately 120 feet upon the employee below," according to OSHA documents.

Violations are alleged and fines proposed until they become final order and the company has 15 working days from the citation's issuance date to try and resolve the matter with the OSHA office, said Tom Deutscher, OSHA area director.

All citations were issued Sept. 14.

Black Hills Trucking received one alleged citation with two items, totaling $14,000 in proposed fines.

The company was cited for employees allegedly not being kept clear of suspended loads or those about to be lifted by a sling, according to OSHA documents.

Black Hills was also cited for allegedly exposing employees to fall hazards of approximately 18 feet by working on the rig floor without being guarded by standard railings, according to the documents.

Deutscher said Black Hills has not responded.

Nabors received one citation for $7,000 which it has contested, Deutscher said.

The citation issued to Nabors alleges that on or about April 5, employees and subcontractors were exposed to falling loads and/or struck by hazards while working on the rig floor during a hoisting process, according to OSHA documents.

"We really try to determine whether the accident or fatality was a result of noncompliance with our standards," Deutscher said. "So when we issue these citations, we're really saying, 'Had you had these in place, this person most likely would be alive today.' "

John Blomstrom, in-house attorney for Black Hills Trucking, said the company received notice of the citations in the last few days and is still in the review process.

"Really don't have anything further than that to say until we've got our heads totally around it," Blomstrom said Friday.

Dennis Smith, director of corporate development at Nabors Corporate Services, Inc., was unavailable for comment.

Due's wife, Kathryne Due, declined comment Friday evening.