Tragedy at Grace

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Noblesville police block access to Grace Community Church following a grill explosion that killed Doug Gripp of Carmel on Aug. 26. (Photo by Robert Herrington)

Family, congregation lose member who loved serving others

 “He was 6-foot, 5-inches with a gift and passion for culinary. He applied it in a unique way to serve others and wasn’t afraid to use his resources to serve others and lead others because of that. That would best describe my brother,” Richard Gripp said of his younger brother, Doug.

Doug B. Gripp, 52, of Carmel, died Aug. 26, 2013. Born March 5, 1961 in Clinton, Iowa, he was the son of Jack and Juanita (Borger) Gripp. Survivors include his wife, Judy (Schwarz) Gripp; daughters, Sophia and Isabel; mother, Juanita Gripp; brothers, Richard Gripp and Steve Gripp; sisters, Cheryl Six and Kim Gripp; nephews, Mark Douglas Zukunft, Chris Cobb and Bryan Gripp; and nieces, Rachel Gripp and Meaghan Six. He was preceded in death by his father.

Doug B. Gripp, 52, of Carmel, died Aug. 26, 2013. Born March 5, 1961 in Clinton, Iowa, he was the son of Jack and Juanita (Borger) Gripp. Survivors include his wife, Judy (Schwarz) Gripp; daughters, Sophia and Isabel; mother, Juanita Gripp; brothers, Richard Gripp and Steve Gripp; sisters, Cheryl Six and Kim Gripp; nephews, Mark Douglas Zukunft, Chris Cobb and Bryan Gripp; and nieces, Rachel Gripp and Meaghan Six. He was preceded in death by his father.

Doug B. Gripp, 52, of Carmel was volunteering to prepare a men’s ministry barbecue on Aug. 26 at Grace Community Church, 5504 E. 146th St. Manning a grill that he had used countless times to cook large meals, tragedy struck as the grill exploded, killing Doug in the process.

“He was doing what he loved to do,” Richard said, speaking on behalf of the Gripp family. “Doug had a passion for culinary, not as a business but as a joy. He loved grilling, loved the making of all the things and applied that to his faith.”

Richard said his brother was a very strong family man who “let his walk match his talk.” He purchased large quantities of food then prepared meals for the homeless in Indianapolis.

“He was serving others in need. He did this on a repeated basis,” Richard said.

Doug had the idea of incorporating using his passion for food and leadership with the church. What started with four men has now expanded to 30.

“He opened up a whole new aspect of men’s ministry,” Richard said. “Doug would say it’s not about the food – that was the bait – it was about leading others to give back.

Doug was owner and president of Gripp, Inc. of Westfield, a Midwest manufacturer’s representative for water quality monitoring equipment, including sales and service, for more than 30 years.

“He was a very successful business man,” Richard said. “He had an engineering mind. He really built a business with a very strong reputation.”

Richard said Doug was detailed, thorough, and used best practices, even in the moments leading up to his death.

“Before he lit the smoker he told everybody to get back and that saved everyone’s life,” Richard said. “There was no human error or mechanical error… There was nothing anybody could have done or not done. It was a very rare situation.”

 

What happened?

Noblesville Police Dept. spokesman Lt. Bruce Barnes said police officers and firefighters from Noblesville responded to the incident following the explosion at 5:15 p.m. Based on preliminary information, it is believed that the explosion originated from a propane grill that was being used to prepare food for “the Men of Grace Barbeque” at 6:30 p.m. 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.

Grace Community Church Senior Pastor Dave Rodriguez and Noblesville Police Dept. Lt Bruce Barnes answer questions from the media. (Photo by Robert Herrington)

Grace Community Church Senior Pastor Dave Rodriguez and Noblesville Police Dept. Lt Bruce Barnes answer questions from the media. (Photo by Robert Herrington)

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.

The grill was taken by investigators to a secure storage location. NFD Division Chief Rick Russell said the Noblesville Fire Dept. was working in conjunction with the Hamilton County Coroner’s Office to determine the cause of the explosion, which was not available at publication time.

“We’ll look at the explanation we have and ask ‘does it match up to the injuries of the victim?,’” Russell said.

Russell said the smoker was a 20-foot-long wood-burning grill with two 30-pound supplemental propane tanks. It also contained a burner that was heating oil to deep fry onion rings at the time of the blast.

“It’s very typical for the size of operation,” he said of the custom built grill owned by Doug. “He drove down to Texas to get this.”

Russell said the NFD is using the same systematic approach with this incident as they would a fire investigation.

“Identify where the explosion occurred. What burned? What was ignited? What was the ignition source that sparked the fire? Test your hypothesis – does this work? Could this ignite that?,” he explained. “We want to do our due diligence to make sure the family gets the answers they need and I think we can provide that to them.”

 

Church copes with loss

Grace officials described Gripp as “energetic and passionate” and a beloved volunteer.

“His passion was cooking and providing food,” said Melody Boyer, pastor of connecting. “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 have worked 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,” Rodriguez said on Aug. 26. “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 focused on “Worship in the Midst of Tragedy” and provided an extended time of prayer, reflection, and worship. Church officials declined to comment to the media but Rodriguez stated this on the church’s website:

“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

 

Gas grill safety tips

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that about 30 people are injured each year as a result of gas grill fires and explosions. The CPSC states that many of these fires and explosions occur when consumers first use a grill that has been left idle for a period of time or just after refilling and reattaching the grill’s gas container. To reduce the risk of fire or explosion, consumers should routinely perform the following safety checks:

  • Check the tubes that lead into the burner for any blockage from insects, spiders, or food grease. Use a pipe cleaner or wire to clear blockage and push it through to the main part of the burner.
  • Check grill hoses for cracking, brittleness, holes, and leaks. Make sure there are no sharp bends in the hose or tubing.
  •  Move gas hoses as far away as possible from hot surfaces and dripping hot grease. If you can’t move the hoses, install a heat shield to protect them.
  • Replace scratched or nicked connectors, which can eventually leak gas.
  • Check for gas leaks, following the manufacturer’s instructions, if you smell gas or when you reconnect the grill to the gas container. If you detect a leak, immediately turn off the gas and don’t attempt to light the grill until the leak is fixed.
  • Use the grill at least 10 feet away from your house or any building. Do not use the grill in a garage, breezeway, carport, porch, or under a surface that can catch fire.
  • Do not attempt to repair the tank valve or the appliance yourself. See a gas dealer or a qualified appliance repair person.

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