Family files lawsuit for oil field worker killed in sinkhole

Family files lawsuit for oil field worker killed in sinkhole »Play Video
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — It was an accident that rocked the oil fields of western Kern County. A worker was killed after falling into a steaming sinkhole.

On Wednesday, Eyewitness News learned the family of that man filed a wrongful-death lawsuit.

Bakersfield attorney Daniel Rodriguez filed the civil case and said family members wanted to take action. He said they don't just want compensation, but also answers about what happened in the oil field the day Robert Taylor died.

Robert Taylor, 54, was killed last month when the ground collapsed beneath his feet while working in an oil field. Taylor plunged into a 30-foot deep hole full of steam and oil.

The family believes that some sort of negligence led to the sinkhole that took Taylor's life.

"What we think is, there were by-products that were leaking from this oil field equipment, and it was hot and corrosive, and what it did is it ate away at the soil," Rodriguez said.

He said they figure that the leak saturated the ground, making it unstable in creating the sinkhole.

There's still been no official ruling on what caused the sinkhole. Eyewitness News has been following the investigations by the Department of Oil and Gas and the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health. At last check, Chevron had been ordered to stop steam injections within 150 feet of the sinkhole.

But the civil suit is not against Chevron. It's against a company called Gene Watson Construction.

Why wasn't the suit field against Chevron? Rodriguez believes Gene Watson Construction was responsible for work done on the well where the sinkhole occurred.

"Chevron contracted out and had Gene Watson and other vendors or contractors do the work," Rodriguez said.

Eyewitness News tried contacting Gene Watson Construction several times but did not hear back. Our research indicates that the company manufactures and repairs oilfield equipment.

We also contacted Chevron about the suit. They said they will not comment on pending litigation, even if it doesn't directly involve Chevron.

We did speak to The Department of Oil and Gas, which said its investigation will probably not be complete until mid-September. We'll keep checking and let you know what we find out.