Doyon Drilling worker killed on North Slope offshore rig

Lisa Demer

A Doyon Drilling Inc. supervisor was killed Monday morning in an accident on a North Slope offshore drilling pad, Doyon Ltd., a regional Native corporation, said in a written statement.

The parent company identified the employee as David James, 56, who worked on Rig 15. He was working on Spy Island, a man-made gravel pad off Harrison Bay, in the Beaufort Sea.

James was a Doyon shareholder originally from Fort Yukon, the company said. He worked as a roustabout pusher, which Doyon described as a supervisory position supporting all rig operations.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the North Slope Borough Police Department are among the public agencies looking into the death.

"Doyon is currently undertaking a complete and thorough investigation," the company said. "The incident has also been reported to all appropriate agencies, and Doyon is fully cooperating with all ongoing investigations."

Leon Boyea, North Slope Borough police chief, said his agency was alerted Monday at 8:54 a.m. that there had been an accident and a beam had fallen and struck and killed an individual. He said he had been unable to verify the information but that a police officer was sent to the scene. He was waiting to hear more. Oil companies and their contractors usually handle problems through internal security but when there is a death, North Slope police respond, the chief said.

OSHA investigators were dispatched Monday morning to Spy Island to look into the circumstances, said Jose Carnevali, a San Francisco-based OSHA spokesman. The site is about 25 miles from Prudhoe Bay, he said.

"This is now an open investigation," Carnevali said. "There is not much we can say."

Because the drilling pad is offshore, the accident falls under federal jurisdiction, a state OSHA official said.

Doyon said its board, senior management and staff and Doyon Drilling staff all are saddened and expressed sympathy to James' family and friends.

"It has been, and always will be, Doyon Drilling's top priority to send all of our employees home safely," general manger Ron Wilson said in a statement.

Doyon Drilling is an oil field contractor. The platform is in the Nikaitchuq unit owned and operated by Eni, a major Italian oil company. Production started last February. The field is expected to peak at 28,000 barrels a day, according to the Eni website.

Eni is drilling 52 wells in the unit, including 22 from an onshore pad at Oliktok Point and 30 from Spy Island. It expects to have drilling completed by 2014. The company says it considers some of the wells to be "leading-edge," because they extend 4,000 feet vertically and up to 20,000 feet horizontally.

The Nikaitchuq field is Eni's first as an operator in Alaska.

Reach Lisa Demer at or 257-4390.

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