Local News

Benson Police Chief Exposed to Toxic Fumes: 'I Was Gasping for Breath'

Posted September 1, 2007 1:44 p.m. EDT
Updated September 2, 2007 5:53 a.m. EDT

— Benson Police Chief Kenneth Edwards was recuperating Saturday after he said he endured the scariest moment of his life just several hours before.

Edwards was rushed to the hospital just after midnight after discovering a working mobile meth lab during a routine traffic stop. He immediately became sickened by the toxic fumes.

“Instantly, I lost my breath, my eyes were dry, my throat was dry, I was gasping for breath,” he said. “I don’t remember a whole lot after that.”

Edwards pulled over a red Chevy pickup truck at the intersection of Highway 50 and Benson Hardee Road around midnight Friday, police said. The driver, Kenneth Scott West, gave Edwards permission to search the car, authorities said.

While performing the search, Edwards was exposed to the toxic fumes.

“I had no idea what I was about to encounter,” he said. “It was a panicky situation. It was scary, as scared as I’ve ever been.”

Two other officers with Edwards at the traffic stop were not hurt and called in approximately a dozen units as backup.

Edwards was transported by ambulance to Betsy Johnson Memorial Hospital, where he was treated and released. He was still battling a cough and some other discomfort Saturday afternoon.

“My throat’s still hurting. My lungs are sore,” Edwards said.

West was arrested at the scene and charged with possession of meth, manufacturing meth and maintaining a vehicle manufacturing meth. Police said they might file additional charges against him.

West was being held in the Johnston County Jail under a $40,000 bond.