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Police Identify Man Killed in Grants Pass Explosion, Seeking Associate

Officers and firefighters rushed from the Parkway Public Safety Station in Grants Pass to the source of a nearby explosion, where they found a man suffering burns from an intense fire.

Posted: Nov 8, 2018 10:05 AM
Updated: Nov 8, 2018 6:19 PM


UPDATE: The man severely burned in an explosion on Wednesday night and later died in the hospital has now been identified as 65-year-old Kirt Morrill.

Grants Pass Department of Public Safety (GPDPS) said that they have contacted Morrill's next of kin and informed them of the situation.

Meanwhile, officers are trying to locate a woman known to associate with Morrill for a welfare check. 54-year-old Kellie Parker [pictured below] is "know to associate frequently" with Morrill, but she has not been seen or heard from since the day of the explosion and resulting fire.

"Right now, [there's] no indication that anybody else was down there, just him," Deputy Chief Jim Hamilton said. "But we want to make sure. We want to make sure we didn’t miss anything when we were down there."

If anyone knows Parker's whereabouts, they are asked to call GPDPS at 541-450-6260.

Witnesses surrounding the area say the explosion caused their car alarms to go off. Hamilton added the windows of the Grants Pass Public Safety Center shook. 

Witness Annette Biencourt Landis said she could hear people screaming after the first explosion went off. Hamilton adds the heat was so intense they couldn't get to the victim right away.

Eventually they wrapped him in a sleeping bag and smothered the flames. He later died at the hospital. 

Hamilton adds because of the traumatic expereince, his officers are talking to mental health professionals to help them process it. 

(Updated 11/8/18 at 5:30 p.m.)

UPDATE: Deputy Chief Hamilton has confirmed that an unidentified man found severely burned following two explosions on Wednesday night has died of his injuries.

Investigators have yet to release any more details regarding the man's identity or the cause of the explosions — however, the victim is believed to be a transient and photos from the scene show what appears to be a transient camp-site where the explosions and fire originated.

(Updated 11/8/18 at 12:37 pm.)

INITIAL REPORT: Police officers and firefighters rushed to the scene of an intense fire close by the Parkway Public Safety Station after hearing and feeling a pair of loud explosions last night, according to the Grants Pass Department of Public Safety (GPDPS).

It was just before 10:30 p.m. when the incident began. "Officers were inside of the facility at the time and could feel the explosion in addition to hearing it," GPDPS said in a statement this morning. The first explosion was soon followed by a second.

Soon after, the 911 center began fielding rush of calls. Meanwhile, police officers went down near the Rogue River where they believed the explosion to have originated.

Requesting support from firefighters, the police officers ran down to the area on foot, according to GPDPS. They soon encountered a man with extensive burns positioned next to an intense fire.

"Officers attempted to control the fire, however the fire behavior was too extreme and fire extinguishers did little to slow the fire progression," GPDPS said.

Using a nearby sleeping bag, the officers were able to cover the man to keep the flames from him and eventually pulled him away from the flames. Firefighters and paramedics from AMR arrived soon after to begin treating the man and transport him to the hospital. A trooper from Oregon State Police also assisted with those life-saving efforts.

GPDPS said that the source of the explosion remains under investigation, but there were signs that small propane tanks may have caused them. The situation that led them to explode is still unknown. Detectives and fire investigators will be continuing to look into the incident throughout Thursday.

The burned man is at Three Rivers Medical Center in critical condition and remains unidentified. GPDPS plans to release more information once he is identified. Anyone with further information regarding this matter is asked to call the Grants Pass Department of Public Safety at (541) 450-6260.

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