From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 8, Number 44 - January 22, 2009
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Anticline death leaves questions unanswered

by Derek Farr

A Utah man died Sunday, Jan. 11, almost a week after sustaining injuries while working on a gas rig in the Pinedale Anticline.

Twenty-nine-year-old Quinn Reay Jessen of Altonah, Utah, died while working for Unit Drilling – a Tulsa, Okla., energyexploration company that specializes in natural gas. According to Questar’s Senior Communications Specialists Emily Kelley, the accident occured at a Questar location.

“Questar has privately expressed our condolences to the family and Unit (Drilling),” she said.

In a phone interview Tuesday, Unit’s Senior Vice President Mark Schell said the accident occurred while his company was skidding to a new location. He said the crew was rigging the rig and not drilling.

Jessen was seen on the rig’s floor (the platform where much of the drilling activity takes place) and 15 minutes later he was found sitting in the doghouse (a shelter that sits on the floor) with an injury to the back of his head.

Jessen was “conscious but dazed and unable to tell them what happened” according to Schell.

Jessen was assisted to the tool pusher’s trailer. Shortly after Jessen’s father – who works for Unit Drilling – arrived at the scene. He drove his son to the Pinedale Clinic.

The Sublette County Sheriff ’s Office confirmed an emergency call at 5:36 a.m. on Jan. 5. The caller said an injured person was en route to the clinic with a 45-minute estimated time of arrival.

At approximately 6:30 a.m. Jessen arrived at the clinic where he was treated for his injuries.

At 9:36 a.m. Sublette emergency personnel delivered Jessen to the airport where he was subsequently airlifted to the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake and admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. He died at the hospital six days later.

No company representative from Questar or Unit or government agency (county, state or federal) issued an official investigative report or press release about the incident to the Sublette Examiner.

More than two weeks after the accident and a week after Nessen’s death, the exact cause is still unknown.

Schell said Unit Drilling’s investigation has not found a single witness who saw or heard anything.

There is, however, one speculation Schell is willing to make.

Investigators do not believe Jessen sustained the injury in the doghouse.

“We believe that whatever occurred, (it) occurred out on the floor,” Schell said.

But without witnesses, that is about as certain as the investigation gets.

“I wish we could give more definitive answers to some of these questions; obviously folks want to know,” Schell said. “But all we can do at this point is go by what we do know and sometimes those answers aren’t always as complete and definitive as we’d like them to be. And until we find some new information, I don’t know where we can go.”

Jessen worked for the company for seven years “starting in the corner and eventually being promoted to a rig manager,” according to his obituary in the Sun Advocate.

“Obviously for the family and the young man’s wife, this is a tragedy,” Schell said. “What can you say? It’s terrible.”

The investigation is ongoing.

Saying Unit has talked to all the people who were on-site at the time of the accident Schell said the investigation process would require “sifting through the information we have available to us.”

Wyoming’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is also investigating the accident.

OSHA Program Manager J.D. Danni said his agency has been to the site and it has conducted an initial investigation.

“I don’t have all the facts of what’s happened,” Danni said, adding OSHA would not disclose the results of its investigation for some time. “Normally we don’t release that until the case file is closed.”

That could take up to nine months.

Schell said Unit wouldn’t conclude its investigation until it reviews the results of the OSHA investigation.

According to Trial Facilitator Investigator for the Sublette County Attorney’s Office Randy Hanson, a sheriff ’s office report indicated the attending physician was notified it was an industrial accident. Hansen also said the sheriff ’s department was unaware of Jessen’s death.

Thus far the incident is being characterized as an accidental death. It is not being considered criminal.

“We have no information that would indicate that took place,” Schell said.

But he added that the investigation has not turned up enough evidence to rule it out either, saying the possibility of criminal activity was a part of the Unit investigation.

“So far there is nothing to indicate there was anything like that,” he said.

Jessen’s death was the third Wyoming energy worker fatality in two weeks. On Dec. 31, 54-year-old Charles Clifton Maclachan of Mannford, Okla., died on a two-track north of Shoshoni when he was crushed by a semi-truck driven by a colleague as he attempted to hook up a hose. Maclachan was an employee of Francis Drilling Fluids Limited of Crowley, La.

On Jan. 1, Jeremy Dwayne Jorgenson, 20, of Fort Washakie died when his 2001 Ford Mustang left the road and slipped down a 70-foot embankment ejecting Jorgenson from the vehicle. He worked for DHS Drilling and was allegedly leaving an EnCana rig when the accident happened.

Last year, two energy workers died in Sublette County. On June 8, a 29-year-old man died in his sleeping quarters off the Jonah North Road, and on June 24, a 24-year-old man died on the Pinedale Anticline after being struck on the head by a piece of falling pipe.

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