Missing worker found dead in charred refinery tank

  • Article by: CHAO XIONG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 4, 2007 - 8:54 AM

Nicholas Gunter, 29, of Hastings, was found dead Sunday in the 10,000-barrel tank, which had caught fire Saturday at the Marathon Petroleum Co.

An urgent day-and-a-half search for a missing refinery worker ended Sunday afternoon when his body was found in a charred fuel oil tank.

Nicholas Gunter, 29, of Hastings, was found dead about 1:40 p.m. in the 10,000-barrel tank, which had caught fire Saturday at the Marathon Petroleum Co. site in St. Paul Park, said company spokesman Robert Calmus. Gunter was probably on top of the tank checking gauges when it exploded and caught fire about 8:30 a.m. Saturday, he said.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family," Calmus said.

A relative reached at Gunter's home said the family did not want to comment.

Gunter, who started working for the refinery in January 2006, was an operator in the blending area, Calmus said.

"It's an unfortunate situation," he added.

The search had covered many acres of refinery property and involved more than 70 people, dogs and helicopters. On Sunday, searchers focused their attention on the large tank that was most severely damaged in the fire. They found Gunter's body inside.

Officials with the company and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are investigating.

The refinery has a capacity of 70,000 barrels per day, according to Marathon's website. The refinery processes crude oil from Canada and the United States into gasoline, diesel, fuel oil, jet fuel, kerosene, propane and asphalt. Most gasoline produced at the refinery is marketed locally at SuperAmerica stations.

Calmus said there hasn't been a fatality at the refinery since 1978, when it was under different ownership.

Last week, an oil pipeline fire near Clearbrook in northern Minnesota killed two workers and briefly caused world oil prices to spike. The Enbridge Energy pipeline system in that area carries roughly 16 percent of U.S. crude imports.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Chao Xiong • 612-673-4391

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