Fatal car fire near White Mountain determined accidental
Rock Springs, WY. – The death of a Rock Springs man in a car fire at the base of White Mountain on February 15 has been confirmed to be the result of an accident, Sweetwater County Sheriff Mike Lowell and County Coroner Dale Majhanovich said in a joint release on Thursday.
On the afternoon of the 15th, county deputies and county and city firefighters were dispatched to a fire at the base of White Mountain not far from the City Reservoir Tank west of Rock Springs. At the scene was a burning 2006 Dodge Stratus; the blaze was extinguished and behind the wheel emergency responders found the body of 47-year-old Michael Lee Tinnie, 47.
The badly-burned Dodge was high-centered in an area of tall, thick sagebrush pressed in tightly against the driver’s door. The heat from the exhaust system and/or catalytic converter is believed to have set the brush and the vehicle afire.
An autopsy on February 20 determined the cause of Tinnie’s death to have been asphyxia due to smoke inhalation; no indications of foul play were discovered. Detectives and deputies interviewed people Tinnie was with earlier on the 15th, and determined that the group had been in the area to view the nearby waterfall. His companions told investigators that Tinnie had become stuck at least once and members of the group walked out to get help. Tinnie, they said, had not returned home.
Investigators said their findings indicate alcohol was a factor in Tinnie’s death.