Investigators: Fatal gas grill explosion was accidental

Doug Gripp
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A gas grill explosion that killed a Carmel man at Grace Community Church this week was ruled an accident.

Doug Gripp, 52, was preparing for a barbeque sponsored by the men's ministry on Monday when his gas grill exploded, causing him fatal injuries. 

Investigators determined that during the preparation heating process, propane gas was going to be utilized as a heat source for the cooking. The propane gas, prior to being ignited, accumulated in and around the area of the side burner, as well as a large warming compartment.

When Gripp ignited the side burner, a spark from the multi-purpose lighter ignited the flammable propane gas, causing an explosion to occur.

Investigators say the gas that had accumulated in the warming compartment forced the 36"x48" door to open at a high rate of speed, striking Gripp and causing his death.

Investigators inspected the grill for prior damage and leaks at pipe junctions and fittings. The propane gas connections and fittings were operating properly.

Hamilton County Coroner Thurl Cecil has ruled the cause of death as accidental.

Senior pastor Dave Rodriguez talked Monday night about Gripp's contributions to the church.

"His calling was to make food for people; different ministries; the homeless," said Pastor Rodriguez.

Safety issues

Claude Wood of Flaming Wood BBQ understands the safety issues involved. He uses soapy water dispensed from a spray bottle to check for leaks before he turns on his equipment.

"When you see suds coming up, you got a leak," he explained. "People need to understand if they're gonna to gas with smokers and that flame goes out, they're a bomb. Without that ventilation, they're a bomb."

He knows firsthand because he suffered severe burns when his unit exploded two years ago.

"The temperature gauge is your alarm. That's the way I look at it. If that gauge says zero, there's a problem. So when I looked at that and it said zero temp, I knew there was a problem. I came over, I opened the door up; the fire was out. I lit it; it blew up," he said.

Wood learned the hard way. There's no ventilation on these commercial grills. Propane settles, and needs time to disperse. That's just as important to remember when you're using your home grill.

"If you're trying to light and it doesn't work after a few seconds, shut it down. Shut your tank off and let the gas dissipate a little bit," said Todd Estes with the Noblesville Fire Department.

Don't allow yourself to be distracted, and when you turn on the gas on your grill, make sure you have the grill open. It's a basic step that could save your life.

Grill safety tips