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Storage tank at oil & gas well explodes
Neighbors were stunned by the blast, that sent the tank itself flying about a quarter of a mile 

Tim Rudell
Flame and smoke rise over neighborhood near Bolivar.
Courtesy of Brandie Delong
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In The Region:

Investigators are still sorting through what caused an oil and gas well storage tank to explode near Bolivar Monday morning, killing a young man sent there to paint it and rattling a nearby neighborhood.   WKSU’s Tim Rudell reports.

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Some thought it was an earthquake.  Jack Johnson’s guess was a little bit closer to the truth. He lives just across Route 212 from where the blast happened—a mile or so south of Bolivar--and thought at first it may have been a small plane crash. 

“We were sett’n…and it rattled the house…little after 9:30.  When I come out of the back door, I just happened to look out across the field then I saw the tank…and knew it was the oil well up there that had exploded.  My neighbor here said he saw it.  It went clear up in the air, he said.  He thought it was gonna come over and land on the road, or even closer to his house.”

Jackson says the well has been across the road--on the backside of the hill off of Interstate 77 about midway between Canton and New Philadelphia--for three or four years now.  And he says it seems to have been well maintained.  Other neighbors say it was operated by MKE Producing,a Canton-based energy investing company. 

Captain Marty Huth of the Bolivar Fire Department  told reporters a two-person crew had been sent to the well site to do some painting,  and one of them was called away just before the blast.  Beyond that, investigators are still looking into what happened. 

Brandie DeLong is another neighbor.  She says the scene was surreal before fire crews arrived.

“There was just a big loud boom.  And, it popped the back door and the basement door open.  When you sit up, you look out the window, you see something fly…but then it was instant black smoke and fire.  It turned the Sun orange…it was black, with just the Sun bright orange.”

The tank was holding the natural gas that comes along with the oil extraction. And, flames roared at least 50 feet high from both the point where the storage tank blew up and the hill-face where it landed, a quarter of a mile away.

Jack Johnson says it was a scary scene.

“It was pretty bad there for a while.  We thought the whole field was going to catch on fire.  But, the fire departments got here quick … and got it extinguished.”


It took firefighters from the Bolivar and surrounding communities about two hours to put everything out and secure the area.   Hazmat and other safety crews continued to pin down the cause throughout the day.

The area of the explosion is rural residential, and the Tuscarawas County coroner says had the debris flown slightly east, it could have jeopardized the neighborhood.

Related WKSU Stories

One dead, investigation continues at well-explosion in Tuscarawas Co.
Monday, July 16, 2012

Fatal explosion shook the earth near Bolivar
Monday, July 16, 2012

Cause of Northeast Ohio oil-well tank explosion is not yet known
Monday, July 16, 2012

Listener Comments:

About 2-3 months ago I was traveling through this area (between Canton to Cambridge)on I-77 South and had called the highway patrol a and reported smelling natural gas from the highway from my car. Wells leak - even 'well-maintained' ones... we used to have one on a property we used to own. If you have one on your place check it for any hissing or smell, you might even be used to the gas smell so go away for a few hours and come back and smell around it - just dont smoke near it... maybe call the Oil and Gas division of Dept. of Nat. Resources first....

Posted by: Jake Scheiderer (United States) on July 17, 2012 8:07AM
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