SWEETWATER COUNTY, WYO – Autopsy results indicate the man who was found behind the wheel of a burned out car outside of Rock Springs last week likely died of asphyxia due to smoke inhalation, and no indication of foul play was discovered.
Michael Lee Tinnie, 47, was found dead in a badly-burned 2006 Dodge Stratus on February 15 when 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. The vehicle was engulfed in flames when emergency personnel arrived. The blaze was extinguished and it was then they discovered the body of Tinnie in the driver’s side front seat.
Detectives and deputies interviewed people Tinnie was with earlier that day 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, never returned home.
First responders pieced together what happened to Tinnie from the scene. The vehicle had become high-centered in a spot where 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.
Investigators said their findings indicate alcohol was a factor in Tinnie’s death. The death was ruled accidental by Sweetwater County Sheriff Mike Lowell and County Coroner Dale Majhanovich.
The Tinnie family has set up a GoFundMe account for funeral expenses.