Victim in Milton Township flash fire dies from injuries Feb. 17

MILTON TOWNSHIP — The 75-year-old Niles man who was the victim in a fire last Tuesday died from his injuries on Feb. 17, according to his family.

Thomas “Jerry” Tedder sustained burns over 25 percent of his body after a flash fire occurred at his residence, located at 33064 Bertrand St. in Milton Township on Feb. 13. 

Niles Township Fire Chief Gary Brovold said an investigation determined that the cause of the fire was a deteriorating gas line, which was owned by the homeowners and located underneath the home.

Brovold said the line had been steadily leaking, but authorities were not sure for how long. When the gas was refilled, more fluid would leak from the line. Brovold said authorities still do not know what ignited the fire. 

Tedder had been home with his wife Brenda that evening when the fire ignited and quickly engulfed their home. Tedder and Brenda managed to escape the burning home. EMTs checked out Brenda at the scene and she was released. Tedder was first sent by SMCAS ambulance to South Bend Memorial Hospital and later transferred to a burn unit at Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo.

Tedder’s condition was reported to be serious but stable as of Wednesday afternoon, authorities had reported.

When the fire occurred last Tuesday evening, neighbors in the surrounding area reported to police that they heard a two-part thud, before seeing the home ignite. The Cass County Sheriff’s Department initially stated that that noise was an explosion within the home. Further investigation proved that the incident was actually a flash fire.

The home was reduced to near rubble and was considered to be a total loss, Brovold said.

Tedder’s family said that the 75-year-old was a retired auto body mechanic who operated Jerry’s Auto for a number of years. Tedder was known for his sense of humor. Tedder’s daughter, Lonna Tedder, said in an earlier interview that even after the accident, Tedder had been laughing and joking with authorities who were helping him. 

Brenda and Tedder had lived in the Milton Township home for more than 40 years, before the fire.

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