In recent weeks, at least three labs have been discovered in hotels between Northwest Florida and Central Florida, with at least two leading to explosions and fire. Methamphetamines are particularly dangerous to bystanders given that there are not only risks tied to usage (ex. drugged driving) and dangers associated with the sale/trade, but there are also risks due to production. With all these risks, our Panama City methamphetamine injury attorney wondered: is the making methamphetamine in hotels a trend? If so, what special issues does it raise?
In the early hours of Tuesday June 10, per station WMBB, police and fire departments were called to Panama City's No Name Motel at 1338 Harrison Avenue after reports of a possible explosion. Upon arrival they saw a blown out glass door and a small fire which firefighters extinguished. Investigators believe the explosion was caused by a shake and bake methamphetamine production lab. Thankfully, no one was injured. The Panama City Police Department's special meth lab team is investigating, and police are searching for a man seen fleeing the area.
The Northwest Florida Daily News announced that a 36-year-old man from Milton has been located and charged in connection with another hotel fire suspected to have originated with meth production. On May 21st, officials were called to a fire at the Emerald Sands Inn in Milton and found a functional meth lab in the room where the fire started. According to the Santa Rosa Police, authorities established that the Milton man was responsible for the fire and the meth lab. The Department further notes that the fire put the lives of other hotel guests at risk.
Yet another meth lab was found in an Orlando-area motel on May 28. The Orlando Sentinel story reported that the lab was discovered after someone complained about a strong chemical odor emanating from a room at the Ramada Convention Center on Jamaican Court, off International Drive. A woman found in the room later claimed responsibility for that call to the desk. Police arrived, confirmed that meth was being manufactured, and made three arrests. A Sheriff's Office spokesperson called the meth operation "extremely dangerous." As a precaution, several nearby rooms were evacuated.
On June 1st, an Associated Press article on an Indiana news site focused on the problem of meth making operations in hotels. An operations manager with a company that specializes in meth lab decontamination noted that meth operations have spread from low-level motels to more middle-class hotels. He referenced a Comfort Inn in Warsaw, Indiana that was the site of a recent meth bust, saying it was unnerving to see a lab in the type of hotel that might appeal to families.
Even if no explosion occurs, the article warned that contaminants left behind could affect people who stay in that room after the cooks have departed, especially guests who stay for an extended period. Meth ingredients and manufacturing byproducts, such as hydrochloric acid, ammonia, lithium, pseudoephedrine, and sulfuric acid, can cause chest pain, trouble breathing, dizziness, and irritation of skin and/or eyes. It takes a thorough cleaning by professionals to get rid of all contaminants. A room known to have housed a meth lab cannot be rented again until it is decontaminated and it passes a final test. Sometimes, the contamination is so severe, and clean-up costs so high, that demolition is recommended. Surprisingly, at least in Indiana, the local health department cannot issue fines or citations to hotels that violate these rules. However, one health department administrator noted the potential for substantial liability alone may make hotels comply.
Simply put, making meth is dangerous, and making meth in a hotel can be particularly dangerous for innocent bystanders. If you fall ill and your medical provider suggests meth exposure may be to blame, you may have a legal claim against either the meth manufacturers themselves or other who contributed to the exposure. For those who were exposed in Northwest Florida, Attorney Pittman may be able to help. Call our Panama City meth exposure law firm to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.