Victim In Clay County Car Fire Death Identified

BERESFORD — Authorities have identified the victim found last month in a burned vehicle in Clay County, ruling his death was accidental.

Kyle Martinsen of rural Beresford was found deceased June 22 in his vehicle on a rural Clay County road near Beresford, according to Clay County Sheriff Andy Howe.

“The vehicle was extensively burned, and the fire had burned itself out prior to the discovery of the vehicle,” the sheriff said Wednesday in a news release.

The Clay County coroner has ruled Martinsen’s death an accident, Howe added.

The South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) assisted the Clay County Sheriff’s office in the investigation and assigned DCI and State Fire investigators to determine the origin of the fire, according to the news release.

“It was determined that the fire accidentally began inside the passenger compartment of the vehicle,” Howe said. “Based on evidence found, it was suspected that the fire likely began due to a lit cigarette or cigarette lighter.”

An autopsy was performed June 23 in Sioux Falls, determining Martinsen died of smoke inhalation and thermal burns. DNA test results assisted investigators with the identification of the body.

Based on the cause of death determination and the origin of the fire, the incident was determined to have been an accidental death, Howe added.

Authorities have continued their investigation since making the initial discovery.

At the time, DCI Director David Natvig said the burned vehicle was discovered June 22. Authorities referred to the site as rural Clay County but had not provided an exact location.

“There is no threat, at this time, to the public, and investigators are not looking for any suspects,” Natvig said following the discovery. “The investigation is ongoing.”

As part of its information, the DCI provided a Facebook photo of the burned vehicle and work underway.

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