Gas buildup cause of explosion

Investigators have determined what caused the fatal grill explosion at Grace Community Church, 5504 E. 146th St. on Aug. 26.

Noblesville Fire Dept. Division Chief Rick Russell stated that during the preparation heating process, propane gas was going to be used 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.

Doug Gripp

Doug Gripp

Russell said Douglas B. Gripp, 52, of Carmel, the owner and operator of the custom made grill, went to ignite the side burner with a multi-purpose lighter.

“A spark from the multi-purpose lighter ignited the flammable propane gas causing an explosion to occur. The gas that had accumulated in the warming compartment forced the 36-inch by 48-inch door to open at a high rate of speed striking Mr. Gripp, causing his death,” he stated.

Russell said the grill was a 20-foot-long wood-burner with two 30-pound supplemental propane tanks. It also contained a burner that was heating oil to deep fry onion rings at the time of the blast. Investigators inspected the grill for prior damage and leaks at pipe junctions and fittings. Russell said the propane gas connections and fittings were operating properly at the time of the incident.

Noblesville Police Dept. spokesman Lt. Bruce Barnes said three to five people were “in very close proximity” to the grill at the time of the explosion; however, no other injuries were reported.

“It was large enough to be heard and felt by people in the immediate area,” he said.

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

Funeral services for Gripp were held Aug. 31 at Grace Church and burial followed at Hamilton Memorial Park Cemetery in Westfield.