Local News

Meth lab explodes in Dudley motel

Posted March 11, 2011 10:37 a.m. EST
Updated March 11, 2011 6:15 p.m. EST

— The front of a Dudley motel blew out early Friday when a methamphetamine lab inside one of the rooms exploded, authorities said.

The explosion occurred at about 4:15 a.m. at the Old Goldwater Motel, 3428 U.S. Highway 117 Alternate. The Mar-Mac Fire Department responded to the motel, but authorities said the building sustained little or no fire damage.

Valentine Morales, who lives at the motel with his family, said the explosion awakened him as he slept on a sofa. He said his first thoughts were for his wife and three children sleeping in the next rooms.

"I'm not scared (for) myself, but I'm scared for my family," Morales said.

Two of the people injured in the blast ran to Jeffrey Aultman's house nearby for help.

"It scared me. I was getting ready to go out the door, and it was bang, bang, bang, and it shook me up," Aultman said, noting that he initially thought the men at his door had been in a vehicle wreck.

Two of the injured drove themselves to Wayne Memorial Hospital in Goldsboro, authorities said. Wayne County EMS took two more people to the hospital.

Three of the four were then airlifted to the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill. They were identified as Randy Johnson, 27, and Joshua Summerlin, 21, both of Mount Olive, and Regina Ann Rugkit, 28, of Goldsboro.

The fourth person injured in the explosion was identified as Tracy Grady, 41, who lived at the motel. He was taken by ambulance to the Jaycee Burn Center on Friday afternoon.

Agents with the State Bureau of Investigation donned chemical gear to sift through the rubble of the motel room to determine the cause of the explosion. Investigators said some of the materials used to make methamphetamine are highly flammable.

"You have propane vapors that can settle. Propane is heavier than air, so it's going to settle down. Someone not thinking (could) light a cigarette, or space heater or anything of that nature that's red hot could ignite it," said Cpl. Christopher Peedin of the Wayne County Sheriff's Office.

Authorities said they plan to file charges against all four of the injured once they recover.

The damage from the explosion left part of the motel, which is owned by a local minister and was renovated a couple months ago, off-limits Friday evening.