Badly Burned Wyoming Oil Field Workers Sue Over Back-To-Back Explosions

A piece of equipment allegedly exploded in the face of a Wyoming oil field worker in mid-December. Six weeks later the equipment allegedly exploded again, seriously burning a second worker. Both filed suit against Anschutz Exploration Corp on Monday.

Clair McFarland

June 11, 20243 min read

A fracking rig in Wyoming in this file photo.
A fracking rig in Wyoming in this file photo. (Getty Images)

A piece of equipment allegedly exploded in the face of a Wyoming oil field worker in mid-December, causing serious burns. Six weeks later on the same site, the equipment exploded yet again, seriously burning a second oil field worker, says a federal lawsuit filed Monday.

The two men caught in separate explosions, Eric Vollmar of Wyoming and Andrew Simpkins of Texas, filed the federal complaint against Wyoming-registered energy company Anschutz Exploration Corp., Wyoming-registered natural gas company Certarus Ltd, and chemicals company EZ-Chem, LLC.

The men accuse the companies of negligently causing separate explosions that injured them.

Vollmar was working Dec. 17, 2023, on the fracking site in Carbon County, Wyoming. He was working for HP Oil, he told Cowboy State Daily, though his lawsuit is against the reported site owner, Anschutz.

The Propane Tank

There was a giant propane tank that he estimated at about 3,000 gallons of fuel in it, and a hot box behind it with a “bunch of coils.”

Vollmar was walking up the stairs toward the equipment when he heard a whistle.

The sound was probably gas swelling in a line, finally puncturing through into the heater, or “hot box,” and igniting a stream of gas, prompting the explosion, he said.

“(It was) a giant surging ball that just got us,” Vollmar said, adding, “Thankfully the propane tank didn’t blow up.”

However, he found himself engulfed in flames, he said.

The water crew on scene later reportedly told him they believed they were watching him die.

His beard and long hair were smoking. Vollmar is “still kind of in shock,” he said.

The lawsuit complaint says Vollmar suffered burns to his face, back, neck, hands and other parts of his body, a result of overpressure caused by water supplied by EZ Chem and petroleum natural gas supplied by Certarus.

But six weeks later, a similar explosion on the same site would treated Simpkins much worse, said Vollmar.

The complaint says Simpkins was working on top of an 18-wheeler when the frac heater on that rig “suddenly exploded” as he was walking back to the cab, burning his face, back, neck, hands and other parts of his body.

Simpkins did not immediately respond to a voicemail request for comment.

Vollmar said Simpkins’ backpack melted and his hands were burned, amid other “gnarly” injuries.

The complaint attributes this explosion to overpressure as well, and blames Anschutz for alleged site mismanagement for both incidents.

“I guess, you know, a lot of stuff can happen out there,” said Vollmar. “We’re both super lucky to be alive.”

The Ask

The lawsuit levels claims of negligence and gross negligence against all three companies.

It says both men have had to undergo extensive medical treatment, including surgeries, rehabilitation and ongoing medical care, and that they’ve both suffered “immense and continuous” pain, along with emotional distress, lost wages and diminished earning capacity.

The men are seeking compensatory, actual, consequential and punitive damages; recoverable court costs, interest on damages; and compensation for impairment, mental anguish, pain and suffering, past and future economic losses and pain and suffering.

They’re asking the court for a six-juror trial.

Patrick Crank and Abbigail Forwood filed the lawsuit Monday in the U.S. District Court for Wyoming on the men’s behalf.

Clair McFarland can be reached at

Share this article



Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter