FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – More than a year after it occurred, the Provincial Coroners Service has found the death of 28 year old Jack Shawn Eyles of Kelowna, at a natural gas production site near Wonowon, on March 11th of last year, was accidental.
Coroner Nola Currie has concluded Eyles died of blunt force head and neck trauma due to exposure to a gas pipe rupture, while in the process of bleeding off a high pressure nitrogen gas line from a surface valve connected to underground piping, while in the process of hydraulic fracking at a Progress Energy Gas Plant near Mile 126 of the Alaska Highway.
The report adds he was manually turning the nitrogen line to the open position when a pipe joint burst, at a pressure estimated to be about 65 hundred pounds per square inch and struck him in the throat, face and head area.
The coroner says no post mortem examinations were conducted as the cause of death was obvious, but examination of the body at Fort St. John Hospital revealed multiple, including two frontal skull fractures.
The report also says WorkSafe BC has completed an investigation and has forwarded recommendations to the appropriate authorities, reporting that overall the company had a well-documented health and safety program at the time of the incident.
However, it also found there were inadequate safe work procedures, in place specific to this incident, and the report concluded that Eyles may have bled the high pressure line too quickly.
It also concluded the use of a remote controlled vent value would have kept the victim out of the high pressure exclusion zone, and away from hazards associated with bleeding a high pressure line and that there was no isolation or control of the hazardous energy in the high pressure nitrogen line.
Further to that it concluded, the nitrogen line, including the swivel joints, was not restrained from the hazardous movement and not secured, thus enabling the vent valve to strike and fatally injure Eyles.
The coroner also says the WorkSafe report states that as a result of this incident, Progress Energy has issued an industry alert, warning of the dangers of not using restraints on high pressure lines, and the need for remote controlled valves.