PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) - The Kent County Sheriff's Department has identified a man who was found on fire along a highway and died from burns on nearly 100% of his body.
Inez Joseph Tates, 55, does not have a permanent address and was a semi-truck driver. He does not have any known family or friends in the West Michigan area, and police said he drove to town in a car, rented by his employer, to pick up a semi-truck.
Kent County Undersheriff Jon Hess told 24 Hour News 8 Tates appears to have been estranged from his family, and his last known address was in Jackson, Miss. Tates' family has been notified of his death, which has been ruled a suicide, police said.
Hess said Tates did not leave a suicide note, and that several witnesses saw Tates carrying gasoline from his rental car to the place where he killed himself. Tates was also carrying the gas in an open umbrella, said Hess.
Tates was found on fire March 30 along U.S. 131 near the northbound off-ramp to Post Drive in Plainfield Township. Hess said investigators are not sure why Tates was at this location. Hess said they are not releasing previous locations where Tates stopped along the way, as that information may help the investigation.
The original 911 call was for a grass fire in the area. Some Good Samaritans stopped to douse the grass fire. That is when they noticed Tates near his Chevrolet Impala, which was parked along the shoulder. The passersby used sand and their own shirts to extinguish the flames on Tates, but Hess said their aid was ineffective as Tates had completely covered himself in gas.
Police and rescue personnel arrived, and transported Tates to a hospital where he died.
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