A man volunteering to prepare a men’s ministry barbecue was killed when the grill he brought to a Noblesville church exploded Monday evening.
Grace Community Church, 5504 E. 146th St., was scheduled to host “the Men of Grace Barbeque” at 6:30 p.m., but at 5:15 p.m. the grill exploded, killing Doug Gripp, 52 of Carmel. Noblesville Police Dept. spokesman Lt. Bruce Barnes said police officers and firefighters from Noblesville began responded to the incident at 5:16 p.m.
Based on preliminary information, it is believed that an explosion originated from a propane grill that was being used to prepare food for a church event. Barnes said there were three to five individuals “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.
Church leaders were expecting about 400 people to show up to the event. Only volunteers were in a parking lot at the rear of the church at the time of the explosion.
Grace officials described Gripp as “energetic and passionate” and a beloved volunteer.
“His passion was cooking and providing food,” Melody Boyer, pastor of connecting, said adding that Gripp cooked for Grace’s staff, ministries and outreach endeavors. “It was his ministry – using his tools and grills.”
“Doug was a committed Men of Grace volunteer and a member of the Covenant Community, the membership body of Grace,” Senior Pastor Dave Rodriguez stated. “He had a contagious passion and generous spirit.”
Since the tragic accident, church officials are working to help congregation members cope with Gripp’s death.
“We’re in shock, she’s (Gripp’s wife) in shock and we’re trusting God for her life, for their life, for the family, and for our people here,” he said. “I would say to our congregation: ‘This is a time to go to God. This is a time to take all of our fears and our pain and even our frustrations with God at this point and just take it to him and speak to him and let him speak to us.’”
Officials said weekend church services will focus on “Worship in the Midst of Tragedy” and will provide an extended time of prayer, reflection and worship.
“For many of us, the reality of this tragedy is still sinking in as our minds and spirits try to grapple with such an agonizing loss. Often, our initial responses come in the form of questions: “How could this happen?” “What do I do next?” “How can I help those who are hurting?” As a church family, we continue to call out to God for His comfort, mercy and presence to cover all those who have been deeply impacted by Doug Gripp’s death. We also ask God for continued strength for those who are extending arms of grace and compassion at this time,” Rodriguez stated on the church’s website.
Gripp is survived by his wife, Judy, and two young daughters.
The grill was taken by investigators to a secure storage location. The cause of the explosion is still under investigation at this time by the Hamilton County Coroner’s Office and Noblesville police and fire departments.