Archive for Wednesday, September 8, 1999

OFFICIALS INTERVIEW HEETCO FIRE VICTIM

September 8, 1999

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J-W Staff Reports

The man who was severely burned in a fire at a propane business north of Lawrence told investigators he was lighting a cigar as he was walking by.

Kim Groenhagen, 35, remains in fair condition at the Kansas University Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan., following the July 30 fire at Heetco Inc., 1853 E. 1450 Rd.

Douglas County Sheriff Loren Anderson said Groenhagen, interviewed late last week at the hospital, said he was walking home early that morning when he lit a cigar, which sparked a flash fire that burned him. Groenhagen has a rural McLouth address.

Anderson said Groenhagen is known to walk places.

"I guess that's consistent with his behavior," he said.

But sheriff's officials are still puzzled what caused the fire.

"Obviously, it sounds very possible his lighter ignited gas, but we don't know if it was propane or natural gas," Anderson said.

The investigation has been hindered by the destruction caused at the cement-block building, which was razed after the blaze.

Groenhagen's condition has been upgraded recently, and Anderson said previous reports of burns over 90 percent of his body were erroneous.

Hospital officials apparently mistook a severe sunburn as a result of the fire, Anderson said.

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