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Officials investigating Lysite explosion

Aug 23, 2012 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Officials arrived Thursday at the ConocoPhillips Lost Cabin gas plant near Lysite to investigate the cause of a Wednesday morning explosion that burned four employees of the mechanical contracting firm Altair Strickland.

Jeffrey Webber, president of the Texas-based contracting company, said the men were installing a valve in a line that was connected to the flare when the blast occurred at about 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.

"As I understand it, some of them have second- and third-degree burns," Webber said of his employees.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a second-degree burn can cause blisters to develop on the skin; third-degree burns can lead to permanent tissue damage, and portions of the skin may be charred black or appear dry and white.

In initial calls to police, people on scene reported that three of the individuals who were injured near Lysite were alert but had suffered burns to the face, arms, hands and legs. A fourth victim was identified as a 48-year-old who had suffered a "scrap on the knee" and was having trouble breathing and hearing.

Fremont County Sheriff's officials who coordinated the emergency response Wednesday morning said two of the workers were flown directly to the Western States Burn Center in Greeley, Colo.

Emergency responders reportedly used the Classic air ambulance out of Riverton and Life Flight from Casper for the transport. An additional air ambulance from Pinedale was also dispatched to the area to pick up a third victim in Shoshoni. From there he was flown to the Wyoming Medical Center in Casper, but Webber said the man was later taken to the burn center in Greeley, Colo., as well.

The fourth man was driven by ground ambulance to Riverton Memorial Hospital and may be released Thursday, Webber said, adding that Altair Strickland representatives arrived in the area Thursday to help victims' families make contact with their loved ones.

"Everybody keep all of the people in their thoughts and prayers," Webber said. "Hopefully everyone can come out of this OK."

He said other Altair Strickland employees who had been working at Lost Cabin are still in the area. Webber anticipates they will remain in Wyoming until their project at Lost Cabin is completed.

"We do a lot of work up there," Webber said. "We've done that turnaround up there for probably a decade."

No gas

Conoco officials said the explosion did not involve production gas, as the blast took place in a portion of the plant that had been shut down for maintenance.

Jim Lowry, director of communications and public affairs for ConocoPhillips, called the incident a "flash fire" that extinguished itself immediately. He said the Lost Cabin plant is secure and has been evacuated, and all personnel have been accounted for.

He did not anticipate any news regarding the explosion investigation for several days.

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