Testimony in the trial against National Oilwell Varco and its involvement in the January 2018 well fire near Quinton that killed five men continued Friday as attorneys for two of the men killed continued to present evidence that NOV was primarily responsible for the incident.
Jurors heard from Medical Examiner Dr. Ross Miller through video disposition how he came to the conclusion on how the men died and if they endured any pain and suffering prior to their death. He testified during the fifth day of a civil trial that's underway at the Pittsburg County Courthouse in McAlester, where families of two of the men who died in the accident are seeking damages.
Miller concluded after his examination that the men died as a result of thermal burn injuries with smoke and soot inhalation. He also believes the men endured pain and suffering before their death due to the soot being found in the airways of the men along with inhalation burns, meaning they were alive and breathing for a period of time.
“At least for a few seconds they were able to know what was going on,” said Miller.
The medical examiner said he could not exactly determine how long the men were alive before succumbing to their injuries.
Miller also said there was no evidence that the men were knocked unconscious due to an explosion.
“Nothing in the exam says they were killed instantaneous,” said Miller.
After Miller’s testimony, attorneys for NOV argued the regarding use of video disposition of the on-site mud engineer, Kent Hall, instead of his live testimony.
NOV’s attorneys argued that since a subpoena was issued and the defense agreed to his live testimony, then Hall should give his testimony live and that if the video disposition is allowed, then they should be able to have Hall for a live rebuttal.
Pittsburg County District Judge Mike Hogan allowed the use of Hall’s taped disposition and ruled that the defense can call on Hall during their case-in-chief presentation.
During his video disposition, Hall explained his role as the on-site mud engineer.
Hall said his role as mud engineer was to maintain the weight and properties given to him by the company man and operator, Red Mountain.
“Red Mountain makes the call of mud weight,” said Hall.
The mud engineer said he was told about a possible trip out, which refers to when the drill pipe is being removed from the well, but was never asked for his recommendation and that it was not his role to give advice to the company man or operator during trip out.
When asked why he was even out there and why Red Mountain pays thousands of dollars for NOV’s services, Hall said he was there “to maintain the properties to Red Mountain’s specifications.”
Hall testified that he did not see anything of concern during his mud check a few hours before the blowout and if he had, he would have brought up any concerns to the company man.
Contact Derrick James at firstname.lastname@example.org