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One Dead Reported in Gas Well Explosion

May 30, 1990

HEIDELBERG, Miss. (AP) _ An explosion blasted a natural gas well Tuesday in southeastern Mississippi, killing at least one worker and critically burning four others, authorities said.

A two-mile area around the well was evacuated, affecting about 145 people.

Authorities initially evacuated only those within a half-mile, but expanded the plan after the fire went out by itself and then re-ignited, for fear that winds would scatter poisonous hydrogen sulfide gas.

The gas is naturally associated with some gas fields.

Experts at capping gas wells were to fly in Tuesday night. The explosion occurred at about 2 p.m., authorities said.

The rig collapsed in the initial burst of what sounded like four successive explosions, said Alex Thomas, who lives within a half-mile of the rig. Others said there was another explosion later in the afternoon.

Jim Maher, director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency in Jackson, said officials intended to keep the gas escaping from the well afire to burn off the poison.

″What they are going to do is bring a flame thrower-type device to keep the well burning,″ Maher said.

Roads were closed leading to the well, which is about 75 miles southeast of Jackson, as was a five-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 11.

″Until we get a firm handle on this and somebody that can tell us with absolute certainty what is going on there, we will continue to take extreme precautions,″ said Mississippi Emergency Management Agency spokesman Dusty Perkins.

Perkins said the rig was known as Travis No. 3 and was owned by R&H Oil and Gas Inc. of Tickfaw, La.

City Clerk Debbie Logan identified the dead man as Dwayne Kennedy of Heidelberg. His age and exact job were unavailable.

The four burn victims were in critical condition and would be moved to burn units in Greenville and in Mobile, Ala., said Lafe Jones, a spokesman for the South Central Regional Medical Center in Laurel. A fifth worker was treated for minor injuries and released.

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