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Lawsuit Filed in Oil Patch Death

Fri, 07/27/2012 - 6:49am
the Associated Press

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The mother of a Montana man found dead at a western North Dakota oil well is suing the well's owner.

Trista Juhnke filed the wrongful death lawsuit against Marathon Oil Corp. last week in Montana's Yellowstone County. Junke's son, 21-year-old Dustin Bergsing, of Edgar, Mont., was found dead on Jan. 7 at the well near Mandaree in Dunn County.

North Dakota's medical examiner ruled Bergsing died from hydrocarbon poisoning due to inhaling petroleum vapors. Two autopsies were conducted because the initial one was inconclusive.

The lawsuit alleges Marathon was "negligent in its specifications, inspections and maintenance" of the well site. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.

Marathon spokeswoman Lee Warren said Thursday that the company had not received the lawsuit.

Marathon said in a statement that there were no apparent problems at the site and that the company is studying the findings of the state medical examiner.

The lawsuit said a co-worker found Bergsing unresponsive on a catwalk attached to an uncovered oil storage tank.

"These wells don't just produce oil, they produce a ton of gas," said Fred Bremseth, Junke's attorney. "It's crystal clear this young man died of getting gassed."

Bergsing had been living in a mobile home at the well site and worked for a contractor, not Marathon.

Friends say Bergsing had a baby daughter and was engaged to be married. Court papers said he died five days shy of his 22nd birthday.

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