Coalgate rig

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined a space heater was the cause of a fire at this rig in Coalgate, Okla. in December. The company that owns the rig had also been cited in 2013 for use of a heater on one of its rigs.

An open-flame heater on the floor of an oil rig likely sparked a December fire that killed three and injured two in Coalgate, Oklahoma, federal officials said.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration said this was not the first time the company that owns the rig had been cited for using a heater on an oil rig floor. The company, Dan D Drilling, was cited in June 2013 for allowing the use of an open-flame heater on one of its rigs.

"Three young men died because Dan D Drilling again allowed the use of an open flame heater," said David Bates, OSHA's area director in Oklahoma City, in a press release. "The heater probably started the fire. The company knew this was hazardous, but chose to ignore the hazard."

Dan D Drilling received a total of 10 violations from OSHA and faces proposed penalties totaling $221,200. The company has been placed on OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program, a program "which concentrates resources on inspecting employers who have demonstrated indifference to their OSH Act obligations by willful, repeated, or failure-to-abate violations."

Dan D Drilling was unable to be reached at the time of publication. In January, however, owner Dan Darling told the News-Capital in an interview, "the heater wasn't even supposed to be up on the floor."

The company has 15 business days from receiving its citations and proposed penalties to comply, request a conference with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Killed in the accident were Gary Keenan, 26, and Kelsey Bellah, 27. Mark Pittman Jr., 26, died in the hospital 16 days later of burns he received in the fire.

Contact David Dishman by email at

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David Dishman is a staff writer for the McAlester News-Capital.