The two men who police believe are responsible for a home drug lab explosion were identified Thursday. Joseph Wickham and Andrew Gonzalez suffered serious injuries in the explosion. Toni Guinyard reports live for the NBC4 News at Noon on Thursday, March 20, 2014.
An explosion at what appears to be a home drug lab in Commerce has caused approximately $300,000 in damage and critically injured the two suspects who could face second-degree murder charges.
Sheriff’s deputies and the LA County Fire Department responded to the 2300 block of Ayers Avenue around 8:10 p.m. Wednesday regarding a call of a tree or transformer fire. Upon arrival, they found a guest house behind a home on fire.
According to officials, hundreds of butane canisters were found inside the home that may have been used as part of a butane honey oil extraction laboratory, where marijuana is turned into hash oil or "honey oil." Investigators believe that one of the butane bottles may have exploded and caused the fire.
"The house was totally destroyed, burned, they won't be able to repair it," Det. Frank Lyga said.
The explosion was so strong that windows of the home were blown out, the roof was gone and the walls of the home were separated from the foundation.
Lyga told NBC4 that the probable cause of the explosion is the ignition of vapors from butane canisters used in the manufacturing of honey oil. In addition to hundreds of canisters, black tubes were also found in the debris. Lyga said in a honey oil operation, the tubes are filled with marijuana to extract the THC.
Honey oil is reportedly gaining in popularity on the marijuana market. The highly-potent drug is made using THC from marijuana. Marijuana is approximately 35% THC, while honey oil is 95%, according to an NBC4 report.
Manufacturing honey oil is considered high value and low risk until butane vapors are ignited and explode, as is the case in this situation, according to detectives.
Two males, ages 18 and 21, were critically burned and transported to a local hospital for burn-related injuries, officials said. The hospitalized men face pending narcotics-related charges.
"If they survive I'm going to charge them with manufacturing a controlled substance." Lyga said. "If one survives and the other one doesn't, I'll charge the survivor with second-degree murder."
The suspects were identified late Thursday morning as Joseph Wickham and Andrew Gonzalez. Wickham suffered burns over 90 percent of his body, according to authorities.
Both men were in critical condition.
Lyga investigates drug related-crime as part of the LA Impact task force. He said that this is the third explosion and the fourth lab found in the last week and a half.
Approximately $300,000 in damage was caused to the home, officials said.
The explosion blew the house off its foundation, LAFD inspector Scott Miller said.