No Criminal Charges Bought in Vintage M-18 Hellcat Explosion That Killed Two in the US

M18 Hellcat tank. Source: By Benzene at English Wikipedia, CC BY 2.5,
M18 Hellcat tank. Source: By Benzene at English Wikipedia, CC BY 2.5,

In October of 2015, two men were killed when the M-18 Hellcat they were both in violently exploded. After nearly a year of investigations, it is still not known what caused the deadly explosion . When the tank exploded, it was being filmed by a crew near Bend, Oregon. Steven Preston, 51, and Austin Lee, 22, both from Oregon City, were the two men killed. The tank was owned by Preston, who was an avid collector of vintage military vehicles.

Preston had been commissioned to capture slow motion footage of the tank firing shells by the Flying Heritage Collection museum in Everett, Washington. The museum intended to display the footage in an exhibit.

John Hummel, the Deschutes County District Attorney, said that he has been in touch with many experts during his investigation into whether the explosion constituted an act of criminal negligence or was a freak accident. His conclusion is that no crime was committed.

Hummel stated that the museum funded the operation through Vulcan Productions, led by Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft.

The Hellcat was designed in 1941 saw extensive use in WWII. It is considered by many to be the most effective tank destroyer of the Second World War, with the highest kill to loss ratio of any tank or tank destroyer fielded by American forces.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE