Deputies ID two Oregon City men killed in tank explosion near Be - KPTV - FOX 12

Deputies ID two Oregon City men killed in tank explosion near Bend

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Two men from Oregon City were killed when a World War II-era tank exploded at a public shooting range near Bend.

Deputies identified the victims Wednesday as 51-year-old Steven Todd Preston and 22-year-old Austin Tyler Lee.

Emergency crews responded to the range off Highway 20 East near Milepost 24 at around 3 p.m. Tuesday.

Investigators said a film crew was at the scene capturing footage of the 1944 M18 Hellcat tank destroyer firing rounds when the explosion occurred. The video was going to be used as part of a display for the tank at a future exhibit, according to deputies.

The cause of the explosion inside the tank remains under investigation by the Oregon State Police Arson and Explosives Unit and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Paramedics attempted to save Preston and Lee, but they were pronounced dead.

Autopsies are scheduled for later this week and will be performed by the Oregon State Medical Examiner's Office.

"This is a tragic day," said Deschutes County Sheriff L. Shane Nelson. "Two families lost loved ones, and our hearts and prayers go out to them."

Preston was featured a few years ago on the Discovery Channel show, "Combat Cash", showing off his World War II era Hellcat tank. According to his Facebook page, it was just one of many vintage military vehicles he collected and restored.

While neither man’s friends or family were ready to talk about their loved ones yet, social media posts describe Preston as a dedicated father and husband, a mentor to kids and a charitable neighbor. Friends say he took his tanks to charity fundraisers and supported veterans.

Preston started Sergeant's Towing over 20 years ago. His employees tell us it's a devastating loss and everyone who loved Preston is just in shock.

No other information was released Wednesday about the investigation.

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