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Associated Press, Published August 03 2011

Oil-well workers on way to recovery after blast

DICKINSON, N.D. – Three drilling company workers burned in an oil well fire in western North Dakota late last month are recovering, and one has already been released from a hospital, according to their employer.

Tim Bergee of Jamestown, Jeff Morton of Watford City and Andrew Rohr of Marmarth were taken to a Minneapolis-area burn center following the July 24 explosion near Beach. Cyclone Drilling Co. Contract Manager Patrick Hladky told The Dickinson Press that one of them was released over the weekend and another will be released soon.

Hladky did not identify the workers, citing the requests of the victims’ families, nor did he release details on the workers’ conditions.

“They’re all recovering nicely,” he said.

All three are eventually expected to return to work, Hladky said. The company has set up a fund to help with their recovery.

State officials said the fire started when natural gas ignited during drilling operations. Brian Engel, spokesman for Continental Resources, which owns the well, said it burned for several days but that the fire has been extinguished.

Repair work is continuing, and it is too soon to know if the well will be usable, he said.