Safety questioned in rig-moving operation
RIFLE, Colorado – A Rifle-area woman believes proper safety precautions were not being followed during a natural gas rig-moving operation Friday in which she said she was injured and her vehicle severely damaged.
Patty Cline, who lives on Porcupine Creek Road (Garfield County Road 325) south of Rifle, said she was driving south toward her home on the rural road about 2:30 p.m. Friday when she encountered a flatbed truck coming toward her downhill carrying a large tank.
“I noticed the tank was at kind of a weird angle and didn’t look secure to me, and he was taking up about two-thirds of the road,” Cline said. “So I pulled over and waved to the driver to come on by.”
Cline said the truck blew a tire as it passed her 2010 Jeep Commander, sending pieces of the tire flying in her direction.
The impact was enough to knock the front end of her vehicle into the ditch, causing significant damage. Cline’s driver-side airbag also activated, which she said resulted in injuries to her neck and arm.
The Colorado State Patrol, which investigated the incident, confirmed that Cline was taken to the hospital for precautionary reasons.
But the information the State Patrol received was that there was no injury, CSP Trooper Graham Thorne said Monday.
Because of that determination, and because the investigating trooper said the accident occurred on a private portion of the road above the end of County Road 325 ends, no tickets were issued.
Unless there is a confirmed injury for which fault can be determined, or if alcohol is suspected, the State Patrol does not handle accidents on private property, Thorne said.
“The parties involved may file an online report so that the crash is documented and for legal responsibility,” Thorne said. “This allows the parties to exchange information online.”
WPX Energy spokeswoman Susan Alvillar confirmed that a contractor has been working with WPX and its contract rig operator to move rigs as part of the company’s natural gas operations in the area.
“I can confirm that Friday afternoon there were several incidents which occurred during a move of a contract drilling rig working for WPX Energy … between Rulison and Rifle,” Alvillar said in an emailed statement.
The moving contractor has performed similar work safely in the past, she said.
In addition to Cline’s injuries from the tire blowout, one of the contract workers was also later treated for injuries following an attempt to repair the tire, according to Cline’s and Alvillar’s accounts.
“The incidents led to two people, a resident and a contract worker, receiving medical attention,” Alvillar confirmed in her statement. “We are grateful that they are both OK today.”
Cline said she learned that the trucking contractor was Tri-State Trucking of Vernal, Utah.
In her conversations with the driver after her accident, Cline said she also learned that the truck had snagged a powerline farther up the road before her encounter with the tanker rig, resulting in a power outage for a period of time.
“My concern is that it appeared they did not have that big tank secured, and it was just kind of hanging on the back of the truck,” Cline said. “And there were no gatekeepers or pilot cars, or any indication that I should be concerned about going home on the road.”
Cline said that in addition to filing her online report with the State Patrol, she has contacted the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to make sure they are aware of what happened.
Alvillar said WPX and the contractor involved will both perform a thorough investigation of the incident.
“WPX Energy is committed to safe operations in the communities where we work,” she said.
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