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Sources Confirm Identity of Body Found in Burning Van in E. Columbus

COLUMBUS (Ken Hines) -- Detectives have yet to determine what caused the death of an elderly church deacon whose body was found in a burning van on the East Side Thursday morning.

Sources close to the investigation confirmed the name of the deceased man as James Buford.

Buford is believed to have been on his way to a medical appointment at a V.A. clinic when his van somehow caught fire. The burning vehicle was discovered at approximately 7 a.m. at 1100 Rhodes Ave. near Driving Park.

"It's pretty scary. The flames were really burning hot, but I didn't think nothing of it," witness Jeff Lett said of the fire. "I heard a horn going off, and then it was like a boom, and flames [were] shooting out everywhere."

Buford's body was discovered in the van's driver's seat. Investigators have not publicly released his cause of death.

Buford was in his mid-90s at the time of his death. He was a much beloved member of Trinity Baptist Church on St. Clair Ave., where he served as a deacon for 40 years.

"Everybody respected and loved him. He was very active in many ministries," Trinity deaconess Barbara King said. "He was still driving and his mind was sharp."
 
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