Texas oil company charged after couple died after inhaling poison gas

A Texas oil well operator has been charged in the deaths of an employee and his wife, who inhaled poisonous gas at a company facility.

Jacob and Natalee Dean died in 2019 after breathing in hydrogen sulfide — a deadly chemical also known as “swamp gas” — at a pump station run by Aghorn Operating Inc. On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that he charged Aghorn and his vice president, Trent Day, with violating the Clean Air Act and then obstructing an investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

“Our nation’s environmental laws are designed to protect our communities and workers from hazardous pollutants,” Environmental Protection Agency Officer Todd Adams said in a statement. “Today’s indictments demonstrate that companies intentionally violating these laws and endangering others will be held accountable for their crimes.”

On the night of Oct. 26, 2019, according to the indictment, Mr. Dean was asked to check out an Aghorn pumping station in Odessa, Texas. When he didn’t return, his wife started calling him, but got no answer.

Growing to worry, she drove to the pumping station with her two children, aged nine and six. When she got out of the car, she was overwhelmed by the same poisonous gas that, unbeknownst to her, had just killed her husband. A pump at the facility was leaking water contaminated with hydrogen sulphide.

Jacob and Natalee died at the scene. Their children, fortunately, stayed in the car and survived.

The Department of Justice holds Mr. Dean’s employer responsible.

“Aghorn was aware that its produced water contained large amounts of H2S [hydrogen sulfide] as well as the deadly nature of the gas,” the indictment states.

It also says the company and its vice-chairman, Mr. Day, ‘knowingly breached their general duty to prevent the accidental release’ of the gas and ‘placed another person in imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm’. .

In the process, according to the Ministry of Justice, MM. Day and Aghorn made “false statements” to OSHA as it investigated what happened. The ministry did not specify what sentence Mr. Day could face.

The Independent contacted Aghorn for comment.

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