ELIZABETHTON — The Carter County Sheriff’s Department is continuing its investigation of an explosion in an illegal methamphetamine laboratory at 123 Sciota Road early Saturday morning. Sheriff Chris Mathes said Jeremiah Joe Hopson, 34, is being treated for burns at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Sgt. Michael Bean was the first deputy on the scene. When he arrived he noticed two outbuildings on fire next to a mobile home. Bean went to the mobile home to make sure everyone was outside.
After he was sure everyone was safely evacuated, Bean began interviewing Hopson’s wife, Samantha Joy Hopson. She said her husband had gone outside their home after midnight. She said she heard a loud noise around 1:20 a.m. She went outside to see what happened and noticed the outbuilding was on fire and her husband was burned.
Mrs. Hopson contacted her mother-in-law and father-in-law, who live nearby. She said her husband left for the hospital with his mother, Helen Hopson. Bean reported that she contacted the Carter County Rescue Squad, who told her to turn around and meet them at their residence because the ambulance had already arrived there.
When Mrs. Hopson returned, Bean said he noticed that her son had third-degree burns on his hands and forearms. He noticed burns to Hopson’s face, ears, chest and around his ankles. He was unable to speak with Hopson because of the intense pain he was suffering.
Hopson was transported to the Johnson City Medical Center and later evacuated to Wake Forest.
Bean said he asked further questions of the family, but reported they were not able to tell him how the fire started.
After the volunteer firefighters extinguished the fire, Deputy Nick Hughes of the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department found evidence of a shake and bake methamphetamine laboratory. In a small trailer behind the burned-out building they found a 20-ounce Mountain Dew bottle with what appeared to be methamphetamine inside.
Bean also discovered lithium strips and empty boxes of cold medicine containing pseudoephedrine.
Bean secured the scene and notified Capt. Thomas Smith and the Carter County Special Operations Unit.