3 burned when meth lab explodes, sheriff says

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 30, 2008

From staff reports

Three men authorities described as “known criminals” were sent to a Georgia burn center this morning after an explosion of a suspected methamphetamine lab.

Sheriff Martin Pace identified the three injured men as:

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• George Alexander, 48, 354 Poole Road;

• Kenneth A. “Kenny” Downs, 44, 1315 Boy Scout Road; and

• Clifford Aubrey Geter, 37, 301 N. Fairview Drive.

After going or being taken to local medical facilities, all were immediately sent to the Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta, Ga., where a spokesman said Alexander was in serious condition and Downs and Geter were still en route and had not been evaluated.

“All three of them just showed up at the emergency room” at just after midnight, Pace said. “We don’t know how they got there.”

Deputies were called to the hospital, then went to the three men’s addresses, Pace said. At the first stop, Alexander’s mobile home on Poole Road, deputies saw flames inside and used a garden hose to begin extinguishing the fire, Pace said.

No evidence of anyone else’s involvement was found at  the Poole Road address or at the other two homes, Pace said.

“It was a methamphetamine cooking that went bad,” Pace said.

The sheriff said he did not know this morning “who will be charged with what.” The condition of the three men prevented deputies from interviewing them, he said.

Each of the three men is known to law enforcement officials, Pace said.

• Alexander’s record of arrests and convictions in drug-related crimes dates to 1975. The drugs have included marijuana, cocaine and crystal methamphetamine.

• Downs was arrested in July on charges of possession of precursor chemicals with intent to manufacture methamphetamine. He is awaiting trial on those charges, Pace said.

• Geter’s record reflects a variety of charges involving methamphetamine, weapons and grand larceny.

Alexander’s brother, James “Gee Gee” Alexander, was at the center of a 13-hour standoff with law enforcement authorities that ended in his death in an explosion in May 2003 at a travel trailer off Halls Ferry Road between Gibson and Porters Chapel roads.

The standoff followed a foot chase into the trailer and “Gee Gee” Alexander’s firing shots from the home. He had left a gun and methamphetamine in a car after a traffic stop on Fisher Ferry Road.

Officers from the Warren County Sheriff’s Department, the FBI and the federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agency encircled the trailer from the night of April 30 until midafternoon May 1 when Alexander stopped responding to negotiators and used an explosive to blow up the trailer.

Pace said this morning’s fire, which was extinguished by deputies and members of the Fisher Ferry Volunteer Fire Department, was contained to the home. He said the only nearby residence was empty at the time of the explosion and blaze.

Methamphetamine is one of a group of designer drugs that can be manufactured via a chemical blending of commercially available ingredients.

Also known as “crank,” “meth,” “ice,” “crystal,” “tina” and “glass,” methamphetamine targets the brain to release chemicals causing euphoria and excitement. Over time, addicts find it increasingly hard to function without the drug.

The U.S. Department of Justice reports that as many as 15 percent of all meth lab busts follow explosions and fires. The “cooking” process requires the use of solvents and high temperatures.