Duluth Man Dies In Oilfield Accident North Of Watford City

Mike Krajewski of Duluth, Minn., seen here in a photo from summer 2012, died Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013, in an accident at an oil well north of Watford City, N.D.

Amy Dalrymple and Peter Passi
Forum News Service

A Duluth, Minn., man who died in an accident at a hydraulic fracturing site Saturday north of Watford City, N.D., was a family man and Air Force veteran who was proud of the work he was doing in North Dakota, his family said Sunday.

Mike Krajewski, 49, a father of three, died in an incident about 3:30 p.m. Saturday at a Halliburton fracking location about 24 miles north of Watford City, according to the McKenzie County Sheriff’s Office.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration will conduct a complete investigation, said Sgt. Matt Johansen. Preliminary information indicates that while Krajewski was working, a valve was turned wrong and “somehow a pipe came disconnected and ending up hitting him in the head,” Johansen said.

Greg Krajewski of Belle Fourche, S.D., a brother of Mike Krajewski, said the family has been told that Mike died instantly, and an autopsy will be performed Tuesday.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a process to extract oil and gas underground using pressurized fluids and sand. Mike’s job involved pumping fluids at high pressures, Greg said.

Another worker, Brad Hong, 55, of Halliday, N.D., also was hurt Saturday and taken by private vehicle to the McKenzie County Hospital for injuries that were believed to be minor, Johansen said. A hospital official said there was no information available about Hong on Sunday.

A Halliburton spokeswoman said the company will continue to work with local authorities as they investigate the incident. The company said it was not releasing additional information out of respect for the family’s privacy.

“This is a very difficult time for all of us at Halliburton, and our thoughts and prayers are with our employee’s loved ones,” the company said in a statement.

Mike Krajewski was born in California but moved to Duluth, his father’s hometown, as a youth and graduated from Duluth East High School in 1981. He married his high school sweetheart, Lisa, and the couple went on to have three daughters: Ashley, 19; Brianna, 16; and Rachel, 11.

Shortly after graduating from high school, Krajewski joined the U.S. Air Force, where he worked as a firefighter for several years.

After serving in the military, Krajewski went on to become a crash rescue fireman as part of a civilian fire department at Eppley Airfield in Omaha, Neb., where he quickly worked his way up to the rank of captain.

Krajewski next decided to return to Duluth and launch his own painting business.

Last year, he decided to shift gears. After talking to an old friend from his early firefighting days who had found employment with Halliburton, Krajewski joined the company himself.

“He (Mike) was very excited about the opportunity,” said another brother, Joe Krajewski of Duluth. He explained that his brother hoped that after serving on a fracking crew, he would be able to work his way into a firefighting position, as his friend had.

Mike Krajewski was proud of working on a fracking crew in North Dakota and talked about it often, Greg Krajewski said.

“By doing what he was doing, he felt like he was a part of something to help our energy crisis,” he said.

Mike, the oldest of six siblings, adjusted to working a few weeks in North Dakota and then having a week off to spend time with his family in Duluth, Greg said.

“He (Mike) was the eternal optimist,” Joe Krajewski said. “He used the strength of his family and humor to endure the difficult times and was brilliant and humble through the best of times.”

Joe Krajewski said his brother was unafraid to take on new challenges.

“He always dug in his heels and did what needed to be done with his chin held high. He had a lot to be proud of accomplishing in his short life,” Joe said. “He (Mike) will be sorely missed but never forgotten.”

Perhaps more than anything else, Joe Krajewski said his brother will be remembered for his compassion.

“He wore his heart on his sleeve, and whenever someone needed him, they did not need to ask. He was just there,” he said. “For as strong of a man as he was, Mike was also tender. If the measure of a man is his family, then he was the gold standard.”

In addition to his wife and children, Krajewski is survived by his parents, Dennis and Joyce Krajewski of Duluth, as well as two brothers and three sisters.