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Father files lawsuit over son's oilfield death

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Posted: Mar 26, 2014 12:30 PM

Updated: Mar 26, 2014 12:32 PM

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) The father of a Montana man who was crushed to death in a North Dakota oil-field accident in January 2013 has filed a lawsuit against the owners of the drilling rig and the well site, alleging the companies failed to provide for the safety of subcontractors.

Randall Winter filed a lawsuit against Pioneer Drilling Services Ltd of San Antonio, Texas, and Whiting Petroleum Corp. of Denver over his son's death, the Missoulian reported (http://bit.ly/1gq9BcZ ). Winter's 22-year-old son, Kyle Winter, of Kalispell, worked for Heller Casing.

The complaint, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Great Falls, alleges Pioneer Drilling did not allow Heller Casing employees to use the appropriate equipment to suspend a large wrench called "power tongs" above a well that was being cased with steel pipe near Watford City, N.D. The 1,200-pound power tongs fell on Kyle Winter, killing him.

The lawsuit says the cables holding up the power tong were attached through three open hooks reinforced only with electrical tape in minus 20 degree temperatures.

A Pioneer Drilling worker lifting a top drive to grab another section of steel casing accidentally hooked a cable on the power tongs, lifting them up, the lawsuit said. Attorney Justin Stalpes wrote that Kyle Winter moved out of the safe zone to warn the driller running the top drive. By then, the driller had raised the power tongs high enough that the cable detached from the tongs, causing them to fall and land on Kyle Winter.

The lawsuit alleges Pioneer had a better set of power tongs at the well site, but would not allow Heller Casing to use them.

Spokesmen for Pioneer and Whiting Petroleum did not immediately return phone calls from The Associated Press seeking comment Wednesday.

The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages and court costs.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated the death, cited Heller Casing with two safety violations in June 2013 and proposed $14,000 in fines.

Heller Casing is not listed as a defendant in the lawsuit because under North Dakota state law, an employer carrying worker's compensation insurance cannot be sued for negligence, Stalpes said.

"We sued Pioneer because Pioneer had the equipment that would have prevented the tragedy if they would have allowed Heller Casing to use it," Stalpes said.

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Information from: Missoulian, http://www.missoulian.com

Topics: Oilfield Death-Lawsuit

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