Savanna Community Remembers Man Killed In Rig Explosion
McALESTER, Oklahoma - The five men involved in the explosion in Pittsburg County have been found and identified.
Searchers found the victims’ bodies Tuesday afternoon. They were identified as:
- Matt Smith, 29, of McAlester
- Parker Waldridge, 60, of Crescent
- Roger Cunningham, 55, of Seminole
- Cody Risk, 26, of Wellington, Colorado
- Josh Ray, 35, of Fort Worth
The fire was extinguished Monday, but it took overnight and until noon Tuesday for well experts to determine the site was safe.
The fire started with an explosion, but it then burned long enough for the drilling rig to collapse which complicated the search for the five missing men.
Tuesday, after the wreckage cooled, Sheriff Chris Morris said the men were where the survivors said they last saw them.
“The bodies were pretty much located in the area they were last working, in, what they call the doghouse, it's just a deal that it was so hot, that's where the fire started in that area,” Morris said.
Sixteen people were far enough away from the explosion they weren't hurt at all. The sheriff said one man was on the rig when it exploded but managed to slide down a guy wire to safety with only a minor injury.
One of the victims, Matthew Smith, graduated high school in Savanna in 2007 – Savanna is just southeast of McAlester.
Smith played on the football team and coaches and teammates who knew him said he was the kind of guy you don't forget.
They said the 29-year-old was a beloved family man, father, husband and friend.
Former high school teammate Matthew Murdaugh remembers him well, especially his willingness to help younger players.
"Him being a senior while we were on the team as freshman, he was always the guy that would pull you aside and tell you what you were doing wrong," Murdaugh said.
He recently saw Smith at a class reunion and said he remembers him gushing about his young son.
"Wouldn't expect anything less from Matthew, being a good husband and a good father. That's what stands out in my mind," Murdaugh said.
Brian Brown coached Smith in high school and has known the family for years.
"He was just always an outstanding young man. Just a pleasure to be around on a daily basis. A hard worker," Brown said. "When it first happened, everyone was in shock, you know, when we'd heard that Matt was in there."
Murdaugh said he heard about the explosion Monday then got a call from home.
"My wife called me and said Matthew was one of the guys," he said.
Walking around the small school, Murdaugh said the news of Smith's tragic death can be felt.
"You can just look around and look at somebody and just know that their heart's heavy, you know. Not many words have to be said, you know, it's on everybody's mind," he said.
Murdaugh's son is the same age as Smith's, and it's a loss he can't imagine.
"It makes you go home and hug your wife and your kid a little bit tighter at night," he said.
The Savanna Bulldog community is very tight-knit and said whatever the grieving family needs, they'll be there.