Texas company signs plea deal in North Dakota oilfield death

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A Houston company has reached a plea deal in the October 2014 death of an Alabama man who died in an explosion while working in the North Dakota oil patch.

A federal criminal complaint accuses C&J Well Services, formerly known as Nabors Completion and Production Services, of violating safety regulations and causing the death of 29-year-old Marine veteran Dustin Payne, of Hazel Green, Alabama.

Authorities say Payne was welding inside a water hauling tank that had not been properly cleaned and vented. The welding equipment ignited a hydrocarbon vapor mixture that caused a massive explosion.

The plea agreement calls for C&J Well Services to pay $1.6 million to Payne’s estate as well as a $500,000 fine.

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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration in 2015 fined the company more than $97,000.