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Missing worker identified in gas well fire [Updated]

*This post was updated at 4:30 p.m.

The missing worker in last week’s natural gas well explosion in Greene County has been identified as 27-year-old Ian McKee, of Warren, Pennsylvania, according to the Times Observer of Warren.

The paper reports that about 40 friends held a candlelight vigil for him on Thursday:

McKee works for Cameron International, a sub-contractor to Chevron which owns the well site.

He graduated from Warren Area High School in 2004, and currently lives in Morgantown, W.Va., with his girlfriend, Danielle Desposito, according to Melissa Almendinger of Warren.

Almendinger said at the vigil that McKee’s mother, stepfather and sister still live in Warren.

Almendinger said she organized the vigil for “my best friend and the godfather of my son.” Drew Gray posted information on Facebook for McKee’s friends.

Almendinger said she has been in continuous contact with Desposito, who updates her on everything she hears from Chevron, including a call during the vigil.

Almendinger didn’t know what McKee’s job title is, but said that he checks the gauges on the wells.

“The last time he was home was Christmas 2012, but he has been trying to come back for a visit,” she said.

She said when the fire first occurred, Chevron set up a two-mile perimeter, and when Wild Well Control, a Houston-based firm came in, its crew couldn’t get closer that a half mile because of the heat.

“Today, they moved a few trucks away, and they are working to remove a crane,” she said.

According to Chevron, the well fire was extinguished as of 3 p.m. Saturday. State police are investigating what happened to McKee. Authorities have not confirmed a death at the site.

Chevron spokesman Trip Oliver said during a Tuesday afternoon briefing for reporters that the company “cannot comment or speculate on the status or identity of our unaccounted for colleague.”

“We are working as quickly and safely as possible to control the well and we will turn the site over to the state police to continue their investigation as soon as it is safe to do so.”

The company expects crews to finish setting up water and firefighting equipment and be prepared to remove a charred crane from the well pad during daylight hours tomorrow, said John Sanclemente, Chevron’s drilling and completions manager for the region. The crane is blocking access to the damaged wells.

Gas monitors detected methane in the air around the site yesterday, but Sanclemente said that with better weather today “we have very favorable conditions for us to safely continue with our work.”

Chevron has been the subject of online mockery after several blogs reported yesterday that the company distributed gift certificates for pizza and drinks to nearby residents as part of its community outreach efforts after the fire.

Oliver said staff members visited about 30 homes in the area to answer questions and listen to residents’ concerns. They gave out Bobtown Pizza gift certificates as “a token of appreciation for their inconvenience and their patience,” he said, and to support a local business that helped feed workers and first responders.

“Our operational response has included a lot of construction activity which has resulted in increased traffic and congestion in the area and frankly a lot of inconvenience to the people that live in and around the well site,” he said.

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