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Authorities Identify Workers Injured In Gas Well Fire

AVELLA (KDKA) -- Authorities continue to investigate today following a massive fire at a Marcellus Shale drilling site that injured three workers in Washington County Wednesday evening.

Investigators were back at the scene today in Avella, looking for the exact cause of the fire. The drilling company, Chesapeake Energy, has also now released new information about the incident.

Company officials have identified the workers who were injured in the fire. They are 48-year-old Russell Schoolcraft, from Clover, W. Va., 50-year-old Richard Lancaster, from Sardis, Ohio, and 36-year-old Frank Lancaster, of Martinsville, W. Va.

Officials say they are truck drivers for BBU Services Incorporated and were wearing flame-resistant clothing at the time of the incident. They were removing water from melting snow.

Authorities say Schoolcraft and Richard Lancaster were taken to Mercy Hospital, and Frank Lancaster was taken to West Penn Hospital. Their conditions have not been released, but officials say none of the injuries are life-threatening.

Meanwhile, at a news conference Thursday afternoon, company officials apologized to the public for any inconvenience the fire may have caused.

They also reiterated that the blaze did not cause any environmental damage or endanger the public.

According to officials with Chesapeake Energy, a preliminary investigation concluded that the fire was ignited by natural gas condensation, or "wet gas," inside the tanks.

They also say the fire had nothing to do with hydraulic fracking as that process had already been completed.

"There have been some early accounts that this was related to hydraulic fracturing; it is not. Hydraulic fracturing had already been finished," said Scott Rotruck, of Chesapeake Energy. "We'd also like to apologize to any residents who may have been concerned or may have had their evening interrupted or otherwise inconvenienced; no incident or accident is acceptable."

Officials with OSHA and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection remain on the scene as inspections continue.

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