BEND, OR -- Investigators have released the names of the two men killed in Tuesday's blast at the shooting range east of Bend. The Deschutes County Sheriff's Office says 51-year-old Steven Todd Preston and 22-year-old Austin Tyler Lee, both of Oregon City, were inside the World War II-era tank when an explosion occurred inside the 1944 M18 Hellcat Tank Destroyer. According to it website, Preston was on the board of the Military Vehicle Preservation Association.
The tank was on BLM land near the public shooting range on Highway 20, near Millican. Sheriff Shane Nelson tells KBND News, "There was some filming going on at the time by a video crew. What was going to take place was some video footage of the tank firing rounds was going to be put on display with the tank at a future event."
It's still not known whether the blast occurred as the men tried to fire the tank's gun, or if there was some other malfunction. Sheriff Nelson says local, state and federal agencies are continuing to look into exactly what happened. "The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office is leading the investigation and we’re being assisted by the OSP arson and explosives section, as well as the federal agency Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF)."
To hear more of our conversation with Sheriff Shane Nelson, visit our Podcast Page.