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Lawsuit filed against Odessa, San Antonio companies

Wrongful death and negligence alleged in oilfield accident

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Posted: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 8:30 am

An Odessa-based company is facing a wrongful death lawsuit in connection to the death of a 20-year-old Lindale man.

Attorneys with Sayles Werbner law firm have filed the lawsuit in Bexar County’s 285th District Court, accusing Thornton Drilling Co. out of Odessa and Forge Energy LLC of San Antonio of negligence, gross negligence and wrongful death.

According to the lawsuit, Ke’Andre Lamon Ross of Lindale died July 1, 2012, during a rig accident in Andrews County, in the process leaving behind his fiancée and two children, 2-year-old Kierra Lynn Ross and 10-month-old Kiya La’Nae Ross.

Kayla Powell, Ke’Andre Ross’ fiancée, is bringing the lawsuit on behalf of the two children, according to the documents.

The two became engaged in June 2012 and were anticipating the birth of Kiya Ross, their second daughter, when Ke’Andre Ross began working as a rig hand with Thornton Drilling and had to travel from Lindale, north of Tyler, to Andrews County, according to the lawsuit.

At about 10:15 a.m. July 1 on the site of the oil rig, according to the lawsuit, Ke’Andre Ross was using a power washer on the rig site in the vicinity of several electrical suitcases designed to encase and protect the rig’s electrical wiring.

According to the lawsuit, the wiring inside of one of the suitcases was frayed, “causing the suitcase to become lethally electrified.”

Ke’Andre Ross touched the suitcase and was electrocuted, dying on the scene, according to the lawsuit.

The fact that the suitcase and power washer were not properly grounded as required by local, state and federal standards, according to the lawsuit, contributed to the accident.

Mark Torian, the attorney who filed the suit, said despite a drop from 40 Texas oilfield deaths in 2010 to 33 deaths in 2011, the number jumped back up in 2012 to 40 deaths.

According to Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports, about 10 deaths can be attributed to oilfield-related businesses so far in 2013.

“Obviously with more activity, there’s going to be a greater chance for these accidents to occur,” Torian said.

Despite a safety meeting occurring before Ke’Andre Ross’ shift began that day, Torian said the company knew there was a problem with the electrical box.

“The unsafe and unprotected electrical wiring on the drilling rig should have been identified,” Torian said. “We believe it had been this way for several days, or a week or two.”

Torian said grounding rods were also not installed in the ground, and both that and the faulty wiring should have been caught in rig inspections.

The defendants have even admitted to the Department of Labor that they knew about the problems, Torian said.

Damages sought by Torian and his clients are unstated at this time.

A person who answered the phone at Thornton Drilling Co. said the company had no comment and immediately hung up the phone.

Messages left for Forge Energy LLC were not returned Tuesday.

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