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RINCON : Test Results Delayed in Oil Field Deaths

Results of carbon monoxide tests on blood samples from three oil field workers killed last week were delayed Thursday as analysts sought to complete their chemical studies, the Ventura County coroner said.

The county medical examiner said the test results, which typically take weeks to process but have been expedited in this case, should be available today.

“These are chemistry exercises and if something doesn’t turn out right, then they have to do it again,” Chief Medical Examiner Ronald L. O’Halloran said.

O’Halloran declined to say what has delayed the analyses.

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Fire officials initially thought the deaths were caused by hydrogen sulfide, a colorless gas known to exist in the Rincon oil field.

But no evidence of hydrogen sulfide was found, so officials now believe that poisonous carbon monoxide gas is the most likely cause of the fumes that overcame seven workers at a Vintage Petroleum oil field on Aug. 10.

Company and state investigators have yet to identify any potential sources of carbon monoxide at the scene of the accident, which also injured four others.

Should the tests, being performed by analysts with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department laboratory, come back negative, officials said they probably will re-investigate their initial theory that hydrogen sulfide gas killed and injured the oil workers.

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