A car fire which took the life of a Rock Springs man last week has been ruled accidental in nature, according Sweetwater County authorities.

Michael Lee Tinnie, 47, was found Feb. 15 behind the wheel of a 2006 Dodge Stratus after firefighters extinguished the flames which had badly burned the vehicle.

The vehicle had been high-centered in an area of tall, thick sagebrush, which pressed tightly against the driver's door. The Dodge was located at the base of White Mountain near the City Reservoir Tank west of Rock Springs, according to a joint statement from Sweetwater County Sheriff Mike Lowell and Coroner Dale Majhanovich.

Heat from the exhaust system and/or the catalytic converter is believed to have set the brush and vehicle ablaze.

An autopsy conducted Tuesday determined that Tinnie died of asphyxia due to smoke inhalation. No indications of foul play were discovered.

Tinnie had been with a group of people earlier on the day of his death. Investigators interviewed those people and learned the group had been in the area to view the nearby waterfall.

Tinnie's companions told investigators that Tinnie had gotten stuck at least once, and members of the group walked out to get help. They said Tinnie had not returned home.

According to Thursday's statement, investigators determined alcohol was a factor in Tinnie's death.

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