‘A Hash Lab Exploded and Almost Killed My Whole Family’
First came a series of loud explosions. “It was crazy,” O’Neal said. “We were panicking trying to figure out what was going on….Then we heard a really loud pounding on our door while more explosions went off….Then our house started filling up with dark smoke.” They opened the door but no one was there.
It was hard to know what to do first. O’Neal said, “My boyfriend started screaming, ‘Get out of the house. Get out of the house.'”
O’Neal said she is still can’t believe some of the things she did. “I took my son to the car…I put on my shoes but didn’t think to put my son’s shoes on…I put my son and my cat in the car…I ran back….I grabbed my mom’s jewelry. (That’s what I have left of her.)… I ran it across the street to this complete stranger…I don’t know what I was thinking…I was just freaking out.”
Meanwhile, O’Neal said explosions kept happening. Fire crews showed up and told the family they couldn’t go back into their apartment and get more of the property. It wasn’t safe, they were told.
O’Neal and her son, 10-year-old Griffyn, were both scared that someone was in the garage. “Every time the butane was exploding and the metal was flexing, we thought it was the man pounding on the door,” O’Neal said. “When they cut open the garage door, I thought I was going to see a bloody body.”
Fortunately, no one was in the building.
Later, O’Neal and Jacobsen were able to go back to the apartment. O’Neal said to her horror she learned that the hash lab explosion had blown out a vent that went into her children’s bathroom.“The force of the explosion that blew the metal part of the vent down,” she said, “it would have killed my kids if they had been in there…The fire investigator told us that the reason the explosion didn’t go through the house was the flimsy garage door… If it had a stronger garage door, [the force of the explosion] would have went through the house…. He just keep telling us how lucky we are….The flimsy door literally saved our life.”
But O’Neal’s apartment was badly damaged. “Walls were cracked…The smoke from that hash lab filled my entire home,” she said. “We had to throw anything that wasn’t packaged. We had just gone to Costco and spent $250.”
Fortunately, she has a lot of support in the area. She is a co-founder of Pay It Forward Humboldt, a organization whose mission is to “give back to our community, residents and other non-profits by conducting community projects, fundraisers and providing relief in times of need.” Her friends there stepped in to help. Folks at HSU (She is taking 20 units this semester at HSU and College of the Redwoods) have taken her two kids to the movies, brought her grocery cards, and offered to let her stay in a vacation rental.
“The whole community has been amazing and reaching out,” O’Neal explained.
On top of that, she does have renter’s insurance though it won’t pay for all the time she will need to be out of the apartment while it is cleaned and fixed up. “I can only stay in the hotel for so long,” she says.The stress of the situation has been hard on everybody. “My son is terrified. I’m trying to get him into a counselor. Me and my boyfriend can’t sleep….We have nightmares…”My son is messed up….I am messed up. My boyfriend is messed up. We cry all the time,” she said. “We are trying to understand the insurance jargon.”
On top of that, O’Neal still has to finish the twenty units at two different schools she signed up for in her social work program.
O’Neal, who also volunteers doing drug and alcohol counseling for the county points out that “it is ironic that a hash lab exploded and almost killed my whole family…We’re talking lasting effects on a 10 year-old boy. It makes me furious. When I’m doing all I can do to create a better community and it still happens to us in our home.”
O’Neal wants the community to work together to stop incidents like this from happening again. “We have to stand up and do something about this. It is time for action,” she said. “This is happening in residential areas with small children 30 feet away.”
A GoFundMe Site has been set up for people to donate money to the family. Click here to be taken to it.
Earlier Chapter: Explosion in Eureka, Hash Lab Found