Meth lab explodes in Mount Carmel
MOUNT CARMEL - A "one-pot" methamphetamine laboratory exploded inside a East Cherry Street garage late Sunday.
The explosion set portions of the backyard at 46 E. Avenue on fire. A resident, John Carl, was taken into custody and subsequently transported by ambulance personnel to an area medical facility for treatment of respiratory burns.
Patrolman Justin Stelma was looking through a garage window when he identified materials for the manufacture of methamphetamine - lye, ice packs, salt, lithium battery strips and more, according to Police Chief Todd Owens. Stelma knocked on the window and Carl turned toward him before scooping up the materials and running to an exit.
"He knocked on the window and the guy got spooked," Owens said. "As (Carl) and Stelma met at the end of the garage the bottle exploded. ... Too much agitation will cause a violent chemical reaction."
Stelma was not seriously injured. He was expected to be decontaminated as a precaution, Owens said.
Further risk of explosion was minimal.
The police chief said he would request a search warrant for the home and the garage.
A second person was detained in handcuffs at the scene but was not considered a suspect.
The incident occurred about 8:45 p.m.
The garage is located between Hickory and Oak streets.
Joe Shearn, of 43 E. Cherry St., was watching television when he said his eyes began to water and his head hurt. He could smell something suspicious, too. He asked neighbors if they smelled anything; one said they felt the same symptoms that Shearn was feeling. When he heard that, Shearn said he called 9-1-1 and watched as firemen arrived and one man was placed in handcuffs.
Shearn said he had smelled that suspicious smell before and had felt the same symptoms.
Melissa Mannion, who lives at Hickory and Cherry streets, said she was watching through a rear window when she saw a ball of flames shoot from what she believed was the garage in question. Firefighters responded to the flames before working to evacuate the houses immediately neighboring the scene.
Members of the Northumberland County Hazardous Materials team assisted firefighters and police at the scene. A Pennsylvania State Police Clandestine Lab Response Team was expected on scene.