Wyoming news briefs for April 23


Two killed in Shoshoni explosion

RIVERTON — Two Fremont County local men died in an explosion Wednesday afternoon at the railcar repair yard in Shoshoni.

The victims - an 18-year-old from Shoshoni and a 28-year-old from Riverton, both employees at Wasatch Rail Repair - were inside a railcar when the blast occurred, Shoshoni Police Department chief Chris Konija said Thursday.

"(They were) doing maintenance and using equipment to scrape away paint or measure the integrity of the welds in the metal walls," he said.

Officials presume an ignition source — a spark of some kind — met with flammable gases in the confined space to cause the explosion, which appears to have been accidental, according to a preliminary investigation.

The blast, which could be heard from as far as 10 miles away, was reported at about 3:25 p.m. Wednesday.

Konija said SPD officers arrived within two minutes of the call. By that point, the two men in the tanker were unresponsive.

Initial communications on emergency radio reported that the men could be heard trying to escape, but they fell silent shortly after that.

He noted that the blast did not lead to a fire outbreak, as the explosion vented through the manhole at the top of the railcar, creating some damage inside the shop building before extinguishing itself.

One of the first Fremont County firefighters to respond to the scene attempted to enter the tanker to rescue the men inside, officials said Thursday.

Because of the high levels of hydrogen sulfide and carbon monoxide present in the railcar, the firefighter had to self-evacuate soon after entering the container.

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Torrington police investigate murder

TORRINGTON — The Torrington Police Department (TPD), Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) and Goshen County Coroner are currently investigating a homicide, arson, and vehicle theft that were reported Tuesday morning, April 20. 

According to a press release from Torrington Police Chief Matt Johnson, “our Communications Center was made aware of a fire in the 300 block of East Valley Road in Torrington” on the morning of April 20. 

After the Torrington Volunteer Fire Department (TVFD) had arrived on scene and began working to battle the blaze, officers were made aware of suspicious circumstances surrounding the incident. 

As a result of the information received, the fire is being investigated as a suspected arson. 

The release continues, “Officers conducted a follow-up investigation based on the information that was received, and a deceased person was ultimately located in the 1300 block of East 17th Avenue in Torrington. The death is suspicious in nature and is being investigated as a suspected homicide at this time.” 

Officers were made aware of a reported stolen vehicle in the 1700 block of East C Street while they were investigating the suspected homicide. 

“All of these incidents are believed to be related and the crimes are associated with a single suspect,” Johnson said.

Sean Pettus, a 32-year-old male and owner of BadDreams&Robots tattoo parlor in Torrington, has been identified as the suspect in the matter. 

He was arrested Tuesday morning, April 20 and is being detained at the Goshen County Detention Center without bail.

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Arch on track to pull out of Powder River Basin coal

GILLETTE — An accelerated plan to exit the Powder River Basin continues for Arch Resources Inc., which reported Thursday that it’s on pace to stop producing coal from its Coal Creek mine by the end of the year and to account for about 80 percent of its reclamation obligations at the mine by mid-2022.

“We are methodically harvesting value and cash from our legacy thermal assets while working down our long-term closure obligations in a systematic and measured way,” said Arch CEO Paul A. Lang in a 2021 first-quarter earnings report released Thursday morning.

The company already has completed $8 million worth of work in reducing Coal Creek’s retirement obligations along with $2 million for its flagship Black Thunder mine near Wright.

Overall, Arch reports a net loss of $6 million for the first quarter of the year, compared to losing $78.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2020 and $344.6 million overall in 2020.

After a sluggish start to the new year in January and February, mostly fueled by a continuing lag from the COVID-19 pandemic, Lang said the company had a very good March and is optimistic for that to continue into the summer.

He also said that while the PRB mines continue to show a profit, at 98 cents per ton in the first quarter, the company remains committed to extracting itself from thermal coal and the Powder River Basin.

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