Death Investigation 09-11-21

Investigators examine a truck that caught fire in the early morning on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. The fire was caused by the operation of a propane torch within the cab, killing the occupant, Thomas Wayne Johnson, 67, of La Grande.

LA GRANDE — La Grande police are investigating the death of a man whose body was inside a burning pickup.

La Grande police Lt. Jason Hays in a press release reported a passerby at approximately 1:42 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 11, reported a vehicle was on fire in the northwest corner of the parking lot at Safeway, 2111 Adams Ave.

“The La Grande Fire Department and officers with the La Grande Police Department immediately responded to the scene,” according to the press release. “First responders on scene verified a red 1990 Chevrolet pickup was on fire and the fire was quickly extinguished.”

Firefighters and police then found a dead man inside the pickup’s cab. Police secured the scene and turned it over to detectives for further investigation.

A second press release revealed that the deceased male was Thomas Wayne Johnson, 67, of La Grande. The investigation showed that the death was accidental and resulted from Johnson operating a propane torch in the closed cab. Johnson’s next of kin was made aware of the investigation and the agencies involved expressed their condolences to the family.

The La Grande Fire Department, Oregon State Police, Union County Sheriff’s Office, Office of the State Fire Marshal and the Union County District Attorney’s Office are assisting the city police department.

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