Fatal blast investigated as accident
Leavenworth County authorities are investigating an oil-tank explosion that killed a 37-year-old Bonner Springs man last week as an accident.
The man, Donny Gene Graham, died when he was checking the oil tank with a co-worker, Jeffrey Scott McClellan, 21, also of Bonner Springs.
Leavenworth County Undersheriff Dave Zoellner said this week that authorities are investigating the incident as an accidental explosion.
Zoellner said the two men had attempted to check the 1,000-gallon tank with light from the headlights of a car. That light wasn't bright enough, and Graham climbed a ladder and opened a hatch to look inside.
"Apparently when the individual was checking the contents of the tank, he couldn't see so a match was lit and the explosion occurred," Zoellner said.
The tank, owned by Renegade Resources, Reno, Nev., is located about six miles northeast of Tonganoxie at 23012 207th St. The tank was on property owned by Helen Lohman.
Authorities said the tank contained about 600 gallons of crude oil at the time of the blast. The tank held oil pumped from a nearly oil well.
Graham and McClellan were not employees of Renegade, and apparently had been asked to check the tank for an area resident who was temporarily overseeing the tank for Renegade Resources, Zoellner said.
"It's my understanding that the person who was to oversee the oil wells had come in contact with these two individuals who would check the oil wells for her," Zoellner said.
The woman and McClellan were standing near the car at the time of the explosion and were not injured. Zoellner said the oil well, located in a nearby field, was not pumping at the time of the explosion.
The blast rattled windows as far as a mile away, neighbors said.
Firefighters extinguished a fire caused by the explosion using a spray foam on the contents of the tank and water to cool the exterior.
Shortly after that, the victim's body was found about 31 feet from the tank. The hatch that had been on top of the tank was found 35 feet from the tank and the roof of the tank was located 95 feet from the tank.
Firefighters from Stranger, Fairmount and Tonganoxie townships responded to the blast.