A Gillette man died in an explosion at a Tisdale Creek Ranch oil processing site Wednesday afternoon.
Beau Damori, 36, was found dead about four hours after the explosion once firefighters had secured the area enough for his body to be recovered, said Chief Deputy Coroner Steve Rozier.
There were two other men at the oil processing site when the explosion happened, but they were not in the same area as Damori, Sheriff Scott Matheny said.
Justin Doyle, 27, and Zachary Ness, 31, reported they heard and felt the explosion at about 2 p.m. and ran from the building where they were working, Matheny said. They saw flames around a propane tank and decided they didn’t have enough time to get into their pickup and drive from the scene. The fire was so hot that when the pickup was discovered later, its windshield and windows had melted.
Neither Doyle nor Ness was hurt in the explosion. Both Campbell County emergency medical services and Life Flight were called to the scene on North Highway 59 about 4 miles south of Cow Creek Road, but neither was needed, Matheny said.
The explosion caused a fire that engulfed 10 large oil tanks, two passenger vehicles, two semi-trucks, three buildings, two full 1,700-gallon propane tanks and set off a 2-acre grass and brush fire surrounding the oil processing site, according to a Campbell County Fire Department press release.
The fire burned for at least an hour and a half before the site was safe enough for firefighters to approach and to start battling the blaze because of the burning propane. Training Chief Ron Smith said that while the propane burned, the 16 firefighters and two command officers on scene did not want to get too close because the propane tanks could have exploded and sent shrapnel as far as a mile away.
The Fire Department remained on scene until 1 a.m. and has turned over the investigation to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, which will likely be in Gillette on Thursday, said Division Chief Dale Izatt. It could take days to sort out the cause of the explosion.
A lineman for Powder River Energy was called to kill all the power in the area as the fire burned.
When reached by phone Thursday morning, Tisdale Creek Ranch had no comment on the incident.
Wyoming Highway Patrol closed a short stretch of North Highway 59 for a few hours while first responders secured the area, the Fire Department press release said.
Smoke from the fire was clearly visible for miles, with one Gillette resident reporting seeing the explosion and fire from his home in the Westover Hills subdivision and a sheriff’s deputy reporting seeing smoke from Wright.