Fire department says trucker died after driving into oil well, igniting blaze

| 3/14/2007

A trucker in California died after he drove into an oil well Monday, March 12.

Kern County Fire Department Capt. Doug Johnston told Land Line that the crash caused an explosion and fire that burned for more than two hours.

The Kern County Fire Department responded to the natural gas fire thinking no one was injured, Johnston said. Firefighters had difficulty approaching the fire and didn't discover the driver or his truck until the fire had burned down.

The wells are above-ground and include steam and oil lines, Johnston said.

"It was dark," Johnston said. "We don't know why he hit it. He's not here to tell us."

Todd Welch, 35, of Bakersfield, CA, was identified as the driver after family members were notified Wednesday, Johnston said.

Firefighters found Welch in a truck owned by Johnston Vacuum Tank Service of Taft, CA, Capt. Johnston said.

The truck is reportedly used to remove oil and transport fluids.

Oily roads and tall flames kept firefighters at a distance from the fire, he said.

"We had oil, steam, a variety of gasses all coming out with pressure for hours," Johnston said.

- By Charlie Morasch, staff writer