MIDLAND, Texas — Aghorn Operating has been indicted by a federal grand jury on nine counts after one of its employees and his wife died in 2019.
Jacob and Natalee Dean were overtaken by H₂S gas (Hydrogen Sulfide) after Jacob was called out to a pump house in Ector County on October 26.
Natalee had not heard from her husband in some time, so she went to the pump house to check on him and was also exposed to the gas.
Both died from their exposure, while the couple's two children were briefly exposed to the gas but were treated and turned over to their grandparents.
The Deans' family filed a lawsuit against Aghorn Operating, Inc., Aghorn Oil & Gas, Inc., Gilliam’s Aghorn Energy, Inc. and Sentinel Transportation, LLC. following their deaths.
Aghorn Operating has also been charged with worker safety and environmental crimes, including violation of the Clean Air Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Named in the indictment is Trent Day, the Vice President of both Aghorn and Kodiak Roustabout, Inc. Kodiak, which is also named in the indictment, reportedly provided oilfield support and maintenance services for Aghorn.
According to court documents, the pump house Jacob Dean had been called out to had eight H₂S monitors; however, on the night of the Dean's deaths none of them were operational and thus did not warn them of the dangerously high H₂S levels.
A representative with Aghorn told the Ector County Sheriff's Office that the field the pump house was in had been shut in and that there shouldn't be any product flowing.
However, law enforcement and fire department officials found water leaking from the pump in the pump house upon returning to it the next day. High H₂S levels were again found at the scene.
The fire department was able to stop the leak, and the next day there was no longer signs of H₂S detected.
Following local law enforcement, the EPA and OSHA's investigations, Aghorn Operating has been charged with violating the general duties of the Clean Air Act and knowingly releasing an extremely hazardous substance into the air and therefore endangering a person by placing them in imminent danger.
They are also charged with three counts of willful violation causing death to an employee in regards to the OSH Act and two counts of obstruction of OSHA Proceedings.
Aghorn is also facing charges relating to failure to follow the Safe Drinking Water Act, and is also accused of making false statements to the Texas Railroad Commission concerning pressure tests not actually being conducted on wells and submitting false pressure recording charts.
Kodiak Roustabout was specifically named in those last charges.
If Aghorn Operating is convicted, a sentence will be determined by a federal district court judge.
At this time there is no word on when the defendant will be in court.