One dead in Bolivar natural gas explosion

BOLIVAR, Ohio - Firefighters in Bolivar are not sure what caused an explosion that killed a 19-year-old man at an oil and gas well Monday morning.

The victim is from Stark County, but his identity has not yet been released.

Thick, black smoke could be seen billowing from the area when the explosion happened around 9:40 a.m. in the 10000 block of state Route 212. The well is on private property, but is owned by MKE Producing Inc., a private investment group, according to Lawrence Township officials.

There were two workers at the site, but one person was called to North Canton, according to the Tuscarawas County Coroner Dr. James Hubert. When the supervisor was driving back to the site, he found out about the blast.

"The bottom line is that when he was gone, there was an explosion. All the neighbors heard it," Dr. Hubert said.

An employee at a nearby group home said he felt the ground start to shake and looked toward the oil well. He said the cover of a storage tank shot about 100 feet into the air, and fuel leaked down a driveway and into a field.

The holding tank landed more than a quarter of a mile from site of the blast, dropped in a field and scorched a large section of grass.

Brandie Hanley, who lives around the corner from the blast site, took several pictures and said the force of the explosion blew open her back door.

"I thought maybe something actually crashed. It was awful. It was the worst think I've seen."

Responders from more than a half-dozen departments helped to get the resulting fire under control. Hazardous-materials crew were trying to contain the fuel spill.

The medical examiner said one law enforcement official was also taken to a nearby hospital after inhaling toxic fumes.

Firefighters first responded to a call of a natural gas smell, but the explosion apparently happened while rescue crews were on their way.

The state fire marshal is investigating. A cause is unknown at this point.

Lawrence Township City Hall erroneously reported two people died around 1 p.m.

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