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Victim of W.Va. gas drilling explosion dies in Pa.

NEW MILTON, W.Va. -- One of the five workers burned in a July 7 explosion at a West Virginia drilling operation has died, an official with Antero Resources said Wednesday.

Tommy Paxton worked for one of the three subcontractors at the site near New Milton in Doddridge County, but Antero Vice President Al Schopp wouldn't say which one.

The Allegheny County Medical Examiner's office in Pennsylvania said Paxton, 45, of Walton, died Tuesday morning in the burn unit of West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh.

Four other workers were flown to the same hospital with varying degrees of burns. Three worked for Texas-based Nabors Completion & Production Services. Two worked for C&R Downhole Drilling of Salem and Willowbend Investments, an energy investment firm in Texas.

State and federal investigators and an independent team hired by Colorado-based Antero are still investigating what caused methane gas to ignite as work was wrapping up on the Hinterer 1H well.

Schopp said the crew was inserting a narrow production tube into the metal casing around the drilled hole when methane gas ignited.

The state Department of Environmental Protection ordered Antero to cease operations July 12, and the site remained idle Wednesday.

Schopp said Antero has not moved to have that order lifted yet. It has until July 31 to explain what caused the accident, how it plans to safely resume operations and what preventive measures it will take to avoid similar incidents.

The DEP is awaiting that report and has taken no further actions, said spokeswoman Kathy Cosco.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review ( first reported Paxton's death.


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