A Texas oilfield company and its vice president were charged March 8 for worker safety and environmental crimes that led to the deaths of a worker and his wife in 2019.
Aghorn Operating Inc. and its vice president, Trent Day, were indicted by a federal grand jury for obstructing an OSHA investigation, violating federal safety regulations leading to an employee’s death and violating the Clean Air Act.
Aghorn, Day and another company, Kodiak Roustabout Inc., were also charged with violating the Safe Drinking Water Act and making false statements about the mechanical integrity of Aghorn’s injection wells.
Husband, wife killed by toxic gas
The charges stem from an investigation into the Oct. 26, 2019, death of Jacob Dean, an Aghorn employee, and his wife, Natalee Dean, who were overcome by hydrogen sulfide at an Aghorn facility in Odessa, Texas.
Jacob Dean responded to a call to check the pump house at the facility on the night of the incident. When he didn’t return home and failed to answer his phone, Natalee Dean drove to the facility with her two children, ages nine and six, to check on him.
A pump had failed in the pump house, causing water containing hydrogen sulfide to leak, which led to Jacob Dean being overcome by toxic gas.
Natalee left her children in the vehicle, went into the pump house and was also overcome by the gas. Both of them were later found dead by first responders.
Knowingly placed worker in danger
The indictment alleges that:
- Aghorn was aware it produced water containing high amounts of hydrogen sulfide
- Aghorn and Day knowingly violated their general duty to prevent accidental release of the chemical, and
- Aghorn and Day knowingly placed another person in danger of death or serious bodily injury.
OSHA began investigating two days after the incident occurred, and Aghorn and Day are accused of obstructing that investigation as well via statements Day made to OSHA in two separate interviews.
Aghorn, Day and Kodiak are accused of falsifying pressure charts filed with the Texas Railroad Commission regarding the structural integrity of Aghorn injection wells.
Court dates and potential sentences weren’t disclosed.