Company found partly responsible for Oklahoma rig explosion


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McALESTER, Okla. (AP) — An Oklahoma jury has found a Houston-based company 10% responsible for a January 2018 explosion and fire that killed five men.

The Pittsburg County jury on Monday ordered National Oilwell Varco to pay $1 million each to the estates of Josh Ray of Fort Worth, Texas, and Cody Risk of Wellington, Colorado.

The families of all victims that included Oklahomans Parker Waldridge of Crescent, Matt Smith of McAlester and Roger Cunningham of Seminole previously reached settlements with other companies involved in the rig at Quinton. Those were Red Mountain Operating; Red Mountain Energy LLC; Patterson-UTI Drilling Company LLC; and Patterson-UTI Energy Inc.

NOV argued that the other companies and Ray shared the blame.

“From our clients’ standpoint, it wasn’t about the money. It was about taking the case to the jury and allowing it to apportion responsibility,” Jeff Wigington, an attorney for Ray's family told The Oklahoman.

“And it was very important for the Ray family to clear the name of Josh Ray, because they (National Oilwell Varco) was blaming him for the death of his friends.”

“The jury has spoken,” NOV’s attorney John Zavitsanos told the McAlester News-Capital. “We very much respect their time.

"Our heart goes out to both these families and I wish neither side was here and I wish this had never happened.”

The Jan. 22, 2018, explosion, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) southeast of Tulsa, was the deadliest drilling accident since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, killing 11 people.

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