Meth lab suspected in Carter County explosion

John Thompson • May 6, 2014 at 12:55 PM

ELIZABETHTON — Investigators suspect an explosion and fire at an outbuilding at 214 Rock House Road, Johnson City, on May 2 was caused by the operations of a clandestine methamphetamine laboratory. A man may have suffered burns to his lower legs as a result of the fire.

Sgt. Harmon Duncan of the Carter County Sheriff’s Department said the fire was reported to the West Carter County Volunteer Fire Department at 10:07 a.m. After extinguishing the small fire, the firefighters requested the sheriff’s department investigate the remains. The fire department also said a blue Chrysler PT Cruiser had been seen leaving the area with a man and woman inside.

When Duncan arrived at the scene, he said he detected the odor of a meth lab in the remains. Neighbors told the investigators they had seen a man run from the burning shed with his pants on fire from the knees down. The neighbors said the man was attempting to put the fire out by beating the flames with his hands. The man and a woman were seen leaving in the PT Cruiser just as the fire department arrived.

Duncan said the shed had been padlocked, but it appeared the lock and hasp had been forced off. There was splintered wood and removed screws on the door.

Inside, investigators found a melted electrical device, a broken glass canning jar, candles, a butane lighter refill canister and a plastic bottle partially filled with water. There were fresh burn marks on the floor and wall consistent with burned solvent. An ammunition canister contained drain cleaner and paper coffee filters.

A search of area hospitals after the fire did not find a man treated for burns to his legs or hands.

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