Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Oct. 25, 1999

One arrested, two injured in drug bust . . . not really

By Luis Puga

Residents may have noticed a conflagration of sirens at Hainlin Park last Monday evening.

Fortunately, the scene, occupied by the Winsted police, fire, and ambulance personnel was just a drill.

The drill was to test how city emergency departments would handle an incident involving hazardous material. Besides the city personnel, the county's hazardous materials unit was on hand, as well.

The hypothetical incident involved a methamphetamine lab in a fish house pulled by a pick-up truck that turned over in the park.

The occupants, one driver and two individuals in the fish house, were played by Holy Trinity students Laura Ollig, Maggie Hertel and Ryan Marquadt. Ollig, the driver, was placed under arrest. The other two were contaminated by the chemicals in the fish house.

As such, the two went through a decontamination process set up by the fire department. Injuries were even given a realistic twist with make-up mimicking bruises and acids burns on the victims. After decontamination, the two were taken by Ridgeview Ambulance Service, hypothetically to Waconia.

Beyond dealing with the threat effectively, personnel also had to deal with the presence of three eye witnesses: Brandon, 7, and Samantha Henrich, 12; and Casey Herbolsheimer, 10.

In additiont, the departments also had to deal with the presence of the media, advised to be more "pesky" than usual by Police Chief Henrich.

Ollig was instructed to not cooperate with the police, and to hide some evidenc in park grills. Hertel was instructed to act unconscious.

After a review of the incident, the reaction of the departments was deemed a success.

However, individuals came up with some ideas based on the incident. It was thought that communication could have been made easier had the team investigating the fish house hand-held radios. It was also recommended that the decontamination site be placed further from the incident command site where many of the rescue vehicles were located.

The unconscious patient proved difficult as she was hauled out on a stretcher. Some questioned how the victim could be decontaminated without moving her off the stretcher. Concern was also expressed how to decontaminate a patient in colder weather.

It was also suggested that in case of a chemical spill, PeopleService (the city's wastewater management firm) should have been called to see how a spill might affect surrounding utilities.

Methamphetamine

Combined with the review, an agent from McLeod County Law Enforcement Agency gave an overview of the methamphetamine situation in Mcleod County.

The agent's anonymity is protected due to his work in the county.

The agent described how the drug has become a problem in rural areas, across many demographics.

Methamphetamines can be made or cooked in a number of ways. The drug, which is a synthetic psychoactive drug, can be ingested orally or injected, and users can be on the drug an average of four to five days from one dose.

The agent warned the city's emergency personnel to look for telltale signs of a methamphetamine lab. While methamphetamine labs used to take up whole walls in a room, they can now be as small as two water bottles connected by rubber tubes and empty pen tubes.

The agent advised the emergency personnel to look for products used to make the drug. Excess amounts of otherwise legal products such as cold pills, red sulfur, road flares, propane tanks, freon, for example might indicate a lab. Even common household items such as Pyrex or Corning dishware and coffee filters can indicate a lab.

The agent also warned about the danger of the labs, citing the number of dangerous chemicals that are used in making the drug. Apparently, the labs have also become the sites for booby traps; designed to destroy evidence or harm law enforcement officials who infiltrate them.

Certain side effects of the drug appeals make it appealing to many people. One such side affect is that it decreases appetite and can be used as a weight loss drug.

The drug is also popular among truck drivers, who are looking to stay awake for long periods of time. The drug was initially use by servicemen in World War II and the Korean War to enhance performance.

Also, because the market value is much higher than the investment in materials, it is a profitable drug to market.

Overall, the agent warned personnel to take the methamphetamine issue seriously.

While the agent would not specify the degree of the problem, the agent noted that McLeod County had more labs than any other county in Minnesota in 1994. The agent added, "The people who take meth are stupid, but they are getting smarter."


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