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Blast May Have Caused Tank Death; 2nd Fatality Strikes Movie Set

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

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Some sort of explosive pressure, rather than a floor collapse, may have caused the death of a tank cleaner last week in California, investigators now say.

The state’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal-OSHA) has also updated the condition of a co-worker, who was injured in the accident that claimed the life of Barry Snelson, a welder and grandfather of three from Bakersfield.

 Barry Snelson, 54, may have been “hurled” to his death, rather than falling, authorities say.
Barry Snelson, 54, may have been “hurled” to his death, rather than falling, authorities say.

Cal-OSHA is also investigating a second recent death in a water tank; this one, on a Los Angeles movie set.

‘Hurled’ by Pressure

Cal-OSHA now theorizes that an “explosion” may have caused the Oct. 3 fatal water tank accident at an oil field power plant and steam generation facility in Oildale, according to The Bakersfield Californian.

Agency spokesman Peter Melton told the newspaper that Snelson, 54, and his co-worker had been “using water and highly pressurized air to check for leaks in the tank."

"Something may have caused the pressure to release suddenly, vaulting the workers into the air,” the newspaper reported.

“The pressure could have built upwards, which would propel them. So it may not have been that they fell as much as they were hurled. But we don’t know that,” Melton told the paper.

Melton confirmed his remarks in an email Tuesday (Oct. 9).

Account Revised

Cal-OSHA and local fire officials also originally said that a makeshift floor in the tank had given way. Now, however, Melton said that the men had been standing on a permanent surface just six to 12 inches above the floor of the tank.

Also, an unidentified supervisor inside the tank with Snelson suffered a broken ankle, not a broken leg, officials now say. Cal-OSHA is still waiting to interview the man, who was the main witness to the accident and the supervisor for the project.

Both men were working for Brahma Group Inc., a Salt Lake City-based engineering and contracting firm. The company has not responded to requests for comment.

Cal-OSHA plans to interview Brahma and the operator/manager of the Live Oak Cogen plant in the "next few days" and has also requested documents from the facility, Melton said.

Firefighters, other first responders, and Live Oak employees will also be interviewed later this week, he said.

Cal-OSHA’s full investigation is expected to take about six months.

Movie Set Death

Cal-OSHA is also investigating the death of a crew member who perished last month in a water tank on the set of The Lone Ranger, being produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and starring Johnny Depp.

Cal-OSHA is also investigating the death of a crew member Sept. 21 inside a water tank on the Los Angeles movie set of The Lone Ranger.
Cal-OSHA is also investigating the death of a crew member Sept. 21 inside a water tank on the Los Angeles movie set of The Lone Ranger.

Reports alternately described Mike Bridger as a longtime welder, a diver, and a water safety expert. Authorities said he may have suffered a heart attack and drowned.

Reports said Bridge was working in the tank to “prep it for a shoot,” but it was not clear what the task entailed. He was found unconscious in the water and pronounced dead at a hospital.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Health and safety; Industrial Contractors; Oil and Gas; Tanks and vessels; Waterjetting

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