Berkeley County Apartment Fire Ignited by Meth Lab Kills Three, Displaces Dozens
Since last Thursday Charleston area news coverage has been dominated by a Goose Creek apartment fire that has taken a total of four lives, including a young child and the girlfriend of the man accused by building residents for starting the fire. And your Charleston personal injury attorneys have taken a keen notice of new developments and information concerning this tragedy. Below there is a basic outline of the known facts surrounding the incident, as reported by local news sources. Additionally, there is some brief information detailing liability, nuisance, and negligence issues that may arise for property owners and landlords in the event of a meth lab explosion.
Authorities investigating the apartment fire have indicated the blaze was started by methamphetamine lab in one of the apartments. Local reports note that several residents logged complaints with the building’s management prior to the blaze about suspicious behavior in, and strange smells coming from, the individual apartment that is alleged to have contained the lab. Tenants say their complaints were either ignored or met with threats by the complex’s managers.
In sum, the fire is reported to have torn through 16 units of the apartment complex, displacing 46 of the building’s residents, close to half of which are children.
The now scorched complex is being treated as crime scene, preventing residents from searching for meaningful heirlooms, objects, photos, etc. No charges have been made, however, in connection with the fire, as the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) has not yet completed its investigation. But news sources have reported that on the night of the fire a man had been taken to the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office headquarters for questioning. Authorities reportedly rescued the man from an angry mob of residents accusing him of causing the deadly apartment building fire. The man was later released. Additionally, Federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents are reported to have taken the remains of the lab from the devastated building, presumably for further investigation.
Across the United States methamphetamine lab explosions have wreak havoc on communities, as they not only pose a threat of serious injury to those working with the highly volatile chemicals and equipment, but also those in the immediate vicinity. The growing popularity of the drug, combined with its profitability for producers, has resulted in the dramatic increase of incidence of serious burn injuries associated with laboratory accidents.
When a meth lab is discovered on a property, many times the owners of that property face a number of legal and financial obligations. First, property owners may be obligated to pay the costs associated with remediation (or cleanup) of the lab found on their property. Also, liability may arise under statutory or common-law nuisance and negligence theories, in addition to federal and state environmental laws that may come into play. In these instances, either a local government or neighbors surrounding the lab may be bring legal action to declare a property a nuisance, seek an injunction to have the lab removed and remediated, and collect damages. In the event a meth lab affects tenants of apartment building, residents may have claims against the landlord under landlord-tenant statutes. Furthermore, negligence claims may be pursued by tenants against the landlord for other damages they may have incurred, such as adverse health effects from exposure to lab chemicals, and/or from serious injuries suffered in a meth lab explosion.