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Oregon man behind decision to blow up whale dies

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JEFF BARNARD | October 31, 2013 05:10 PM EST | AP


GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — An Oregon highway engineer whose 1970 decision to use a half-ton of dynamite to blast away a beached dead whale became an Internet sensation has died. George Thomas Thornton was 84.

The Oregon Department of Transportation says Thornton was a highly respected engineer who worked for the agency for 37 years.

In November 1970, he got the call to remove a 45-foot-long sperm whale that washed up near Florence. He decided to use dynamite to disintegrate the animal. The blast rained down pieces of whale that covered spectators and flattened the roof of a car.

A Portland TV station filmed the explosion, and it was broadcast widely. The video of the whale explosion remains a popular feature on YouTube.

Perl Funeral Home in Medford confirmed Thornton died Oct. 27. His family declined to comment.