Deadly Rig Blast May Have Been Criminal

INDEPENDENCE, Kan. (AP) - Evidence of possible criminal activity has been found in a natural gas drilling rig explosion that killed two workers and injured a third, authorities said Monday.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Kansas State Fire Marshal's office and the Montgomery County Sheriff's Department are offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the June 2 explosion.

"If this tragedy was the result of a deliberate criminal act, we will not rest until whoever is responsible was brought to justice," Sheriff Stan Veach said in a statement announcing the reward.

Paul Marquardt, an ATF spokesman in Kansas City, Mo., would not discuss the evidence in detail.

The rig belonged to McPherson Drilling of Cherryvale. Shortly after the explosion, one of the owners of the company noted the unusual nature of the blast.

"You could tell the way the pipe blew that something inside the pipe blew out instead of up," Nancy McPherson said on the day of the explosion. "My husband says he has never seen anything like this before."

© 2005 Associated Press