‘A Hash Lab Exploded and Almost Killed My Whole Family’


Humboldt Bay firefighters race to put out an explosion in a hash lab. [Photo by Oliver Cory.]

On Sunday at 4 p.m., when explosions began ripping through the garage next door to them,  Shannan O’Neal, her son, Griffyn, and her boyfriend, Ben Jacobsen, were relaxing after a busy day. “We had just got through with my son winning the championship game for his division,” said O’Neal proudly. “He’s on AA Football for the Eureka Knights.”

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.


Area in the bathroom ceiling where the force of the explosion thrust a metal vent from the ceiling and cracked a wall. [Photo provided by Shannan O’Neal.]

“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.


A family photo from before the explosions. [From the GoFundMe page.]

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



  • How the hell could you live next door to a hash lab and not at least suspect something was amiss? I’m trying not to blame the victim, but maybe you could give other innocent people a clue as to what to look for.

    • It was in a garage by their apartment. The guy just moved in. They have incredibly busy lives with 2 children, full time jobs, 20 units at HSU, founding Pay It Forward Humboldt, kids sports. They weren’t looking in neighbors homes for butane or Marijuana. It is in fact the property management responsibility to be checking these units for not only proper venting but illegal activities . Like I said the guy just moved in and it only takes one time.

    • This is a bullshit statement. Since you know so much, tell us what to look for. It isn’t a meth lab that has a smell. I would say the only sounds, if this dipshit was attempting to purge the toxic residue from his concentrate would be the vacuum pump which sounds like an air compressor. These deadly bombs can pretty much go undetected. Who’s going to question an air compressor in a garage? I’ve said it before, I’m not against cannabis, but this crap goes beyond my tolerance. These labs are deadly. Flip through all of the stories on the news about this problem. I can’t believe there aren’t harsher penalties. Bring in the feds. These people are concentrating a schdl 1 drug in a deadly manner. If Jack Bauer were here, he would say domestic terrorism. “dammit Chloe!” Since all the kids want to “dab”, just make hash or chief and melt it.

      • sharpen your pencil

        You can smell it. It still smells like mj when you use butane. Also they would have had to smell the butane. The only time property management is able to check these rooms is if someone makes a report on the activities happening in the apartment building.

        • Butane is odorless, unlike propane, the butane sold in cans to refill lighters is NOT sented. They add mercaptan to other similar flammable gases for safety but if you used it to light your cig, it would tastes like crap. If you can smell butane, then you should have yourself examined by doctors because you have a novel ability that no other human has.

          • sharpen your pencil

            You obviously have never refilled a lighter. Butane has an odor and if somebody is manufacturing in town you can smell it for atleast 100ft, again if manufacturing. These backyard chemnecks deserve everything coming their way. Dumbasses….. stay in school kids

          • sharpen your pencil

            It’s called been there done that. If you knew what you think you know you would be heading somewhere in life…

        • Where in Humboldt county in the fall, especially in the slums of Eureka, does it not smell like MJ?

      • FIrst of all, there shouldn’t be any toxic residue in BHO to begin with, look at the MSDS for butane. Secondly, most people dont use vac ovens, they use a double boiler setup, often in the form of pyrex pans on electric griddles.

    • Butane doesn’t have a strong odor. It is a normal level of sound to use and produce. The neighbor could easily bring the butane in at night or in unlabeled boxes.

    • The main thing to look for is cases and cases of small butane canisters. the smoke shops sell them in bulk all over Humboldt, to the people who try to make hash…

    • I live in Fortuna in a neighborhood where there is known obvious drug activity going on daily. The police are aware and have been aware for a very long time, yet nothing is done. They are called to this house constantly. Our whole neighborhood is just waiting for the day something like this happens. People that want to leave can’t even sell their homes to do so because of this residence. No one wants to live here. So, even if people were aware of this type of activity it’s not always easy to get away! My prayers are with this family! I hope we as a community can pull together and help them.

  • This is California, there’s something called Lawyers.
    Sue the neighbors – sue the neighbors family – sue the building manager – sue the building owner – sue the store that sold the butane – sue the landlord of the business that sold the butane – sue the company that distributes the butane – sue the manufacture of the butane – sue the fire department – sue the police – sue the city.
    Get creative .

  • rosin is the future

    Stop blowing up your neighbors! Start making Rosin. Its safer, takes less time and the finished product sells for 80$ a gram. Google Rosin tech, and sell that bho system.

  • I’m not a lawyer but it seems to me that targeting the butane canister distribution channel is the place to start. That product can no longer be viewed as innocuous enough to remain on the market uncontrolled. When we have dozens of vendors dispensing thousands or tens of thousands of units onto the street and dozens of documented events such as this, we need to go at the root of the problem. Can’t the Board of Supervisors consider a county ordinance requiring registration of all butane sales? It may have seemed like a draconian measure when applied to over the counter Sudafed but then I don’t know a lot of people who buy butane to treat a head cold. If you need a can of butane here or there for your cigarette lighter or campstove that’s one thing, but if you’re buying this stuff by the case you are very likely putting the safety and security of your neighbors at risk. Odds are the idiots taking the biggest risks have no resources with which to compensate those to whom they do harm. But you can bet your ass the stores selling all the butane do. Follow the money!

    • True. Of course other nonpolar organic solvents can also be used (besides butane) and are common and easy to purchase.

    • True but like the toxic chemicals being used for indoor grows, butane can be ordered online.
      Yes follow the money on both ends, if this stuff didnt sell for so much money per pound it wouldn’t be made so often by amateurs. Just one of many serious issues with indoor marijuana activities not being addressed in the county.

  • Reads like one of the SoHumBorn fictional stories. Maybe they’re not so fictional after all.

  • We smell it in our neighborhood.my neighbors a couple of them,the smell is sicking,I have been sick for days.then they moved and I feel better.the house can’t be lived in till haze mat cleans it all down,and deems it safe.watch who you rent to.as a land lord you have the right to check on your property to make sure there not using your property for illegal activity. I’m so glad this family got out and everyone is ok.

  • I am so sorry this happened to you. It is terrible that these criminals think of no one but them selves when they do stuff like that. Praying that you all are comforted and overcome this and get back to a peaceful life soon. I am relieved that you all lived through it.

  • Girl: says she has lots of support, yet has to stay at a hotel

    Girl: says she and her boyfriend work full time, go to school and volunteer, yet doesn’t have any money to get another home…odds of being home were pretty low being busy like that, sorry about your bad luck

    Girl: mentions they spent 250 at costco, which means what? I did too.. hard to get out of there under $300 huh?

    People telling her to sue..

    the people next door.. I’m guessing don’t have alot of money due to the recent loss of income due to them blowing up their resources
    I bet it’s the landlords fault he didnt watch them bringing in a #hashlab.. damn slum lords

    Let’s go after the butane company I’m sure it was all just a big conspiracy

    I just feel this is an very unfortunate but I’m guessing the landlord will.fix her home as new..and insurance will cover damaged belongings.. why do you have to move??? Why do you need a 2500+ go fund me? Will it cost that much to wash your smokey clothes? Cuz hell being em to me.. I can wash them for free… if that will save you..

    Can’t you just feel blessed and fortunate..that your family is safe and that you appear to have a large network of people you could shack up with until your apartment is fixed? Instead Of pulling FROM The community right before Christmas for assets that will be replaced through insurance? I have worked at an Insurance company for years the payout is pretty quick unless you’re using some 1-800 insurance company …keep sharing the go fund me page all over facebook… maybe you can take us all on vacation from a stress break when this is all over…

    • My thoughts exactly. Not saying the situation doesn’t suck for them. But between the property owners insurance and their own renters insurance they will be pretty well taken care of. Inconvenience, yes, definitely. Could it have been much worse, of course. Be thankful your family was uninjured and you are still all here. Things will work out, no need to use this as an opportunity for free stuff at the expense of others.

    • The renters insurance only cover a couple days in a hotel. The property management company CAN NOT allow them to live there. It is a family of 4 . They do not have first and lasts for a new place overnight. The chemical smell is still strong and makes you sick being in the apartment still days later. The clothing we all have been washing still smells. The insurance adjuster is dragging their feet. The landlords insurances DO NOT cover personal property damage or replacement temporary housing. Being cruel serves no purpose .

  • Okay your so fucking dumb if you think that almost killed you whole family. Over dramatic much? Oh yea and really? That metal vent would have killed your kids wow, the way it’s said its like you want it to happen. Clearly over dramatic. Scary for sure, but this was a butane exp. was not an IED that actually kills people everyday. Be great full not over dramatic and wanting people to feel sorry for you. I’ve been through a fire where we lost everything, you just want attention.

  • You know what I want, these $#@$$# criminals out of my neighborhood. The root cause of this is not butane, it is people who want to get high. Smoking wee isn’t good enough anymore, so they need wax or whatever the hell you call it. One thing is for sure I am not voting to legalize MJ because no matter what you think this illegal stuff ain’t gonna go away. Wherever there is a buck to be made, some yahoo will do whatever they want to make it.

  • i have to agree with its time your being way to dramatic i have could see
    being scared but come on people nobody got hurt. why milk it move on with your lives. u have to put it behind u and not make it some kind of life time drematic event. there are people out there that have gotten hurt and lost there loved ones that dont wine as much as u do yea be greatful that no body got hurt . but dont take advantage of the kindness in our comunity we only have so little of it save it for the people that really need it

    • I always taught my kids that kindness and love were like light from a candle. The more you share. The more there is. I never knew there was a finite share of it that could be used up.

    • Funny thing is she has helped this community more than most people. She can not move home if she wanted to and all their belongings are ruined. The damage is not repaired and everything smells so bad of chemicals no one even can stand to be near it
      The landlords have NO idea when it will be liveable again. It was important for the community to know there are real dangers associated with this , but clearly select few of you missed that point and chose to judge instead.

  • Pingback: Search Warrant for Apartment Associated With Hash Lab Explosion Yields 4.5 Pounds of Concentrate | Redheaded Blackbelt

  • If we can limit the amount of pseudophedrine/cold pills that can be used to make meth, we can limit sales of these fucking butane canisters.

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