BOAZ, ALABAMA - Police officers and firefighters ducked as explosions split the early morning peace in Bethsaida Road. A life and a crystal methamphetamine lab were snuffed out in the same instant.
When the booms died down and the heat cooled, a body laid under a collapsed ceiling and a man was being treated second-degree burns on his face and hands.
The roof of the house at 1140 Bethsaida Road had fallen partially by the time daylight met the scene, with the house cool enough for investigators to enter five hours after the first explosion. Firefighters and Marshall County Drug Enforcement Unit agents in hazardous-materials suits checked out the inside.
Marshall County District Attorney Steve Marshall could not say whether a meth lab caused the fire. "What we have now is evidence, both inside the house and in an outbuilding, of a meth cook going on at the property," he said.
The injured man, Robert Watson, 40, the stepson of the owner of the house, was treated at Marshall Medical Center South and then released. Boaz Police Chief Terry Davis said that Watson has been arrested in Boaz before for driving under the influence, but he couldn't say if there had been other charges.
Davis said that Watson has been interviewed and was able to shed a little light on what happened. "We are 99 percent sure we know who (the deceased) is, but we want to make sure before we release a name," Davis said.
Marshall said he hopes to release an identification on the body today. It was taken to an Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences laboratory to be matched against medical records.
A neighbor called police to report the fire at 3:16 a.m. "We know of at least one call about some type of explosion about the same time the fire call came in," Davis said.
The fire could be seen from U.S. 431 and was near several businesses on the main highway including Pasquales.
Boaz Fire Chief Olen Morrison said the fire seems to have started in the kitchen area. It took firefighters half an hour to get it under control, and it burned so hotly that it was a couple of hours before the flames were extinguished, he said.
Officers from the district attorney's office, Marshall County Sheriff's Department, Sardis Police Department and Alabama Bureau of Investigation went to the scene. The state fire marshal came to help with the investigation.
Cindy West for the Gadsen Times
February 5th 2004
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Deadly fire erupts in meth lab