Nursing home meth lab fire results in accidental death

This photo, taken Monday, shows a room at Park Haven Nursing Home in Ashtabula, Ohio.. A Sunday night fire caused by a meth lab in the room killed one person and injured six others. Associated Press
This photo, taken Monday, shows a room at Park Haven Nursing Home in Ashtabula, Ohio.. A Sunday night fire caused by a meth lab in the room killed one person and injured six others.
Associated Press

By Kantele Franko
Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A medical examiner said Wednesday a man killed by a methamphetamine lab fire at an Ohio nursing home suffered an accidental death. He who was burned on more than 90 percent of his body.

The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s office said it could not release further details about Shaun Warrens, 31, of Ashtabula. Warrens was hospitalized after the fire Sunday in a resident’s room at the Park Haven facility in Ashtabula, east of Cleveland, and he died Monday. Police have said he wasn’t a resident or employee at the facility.

Four more people were hospitalized after the fire, and two others were treated at the scene. Their conditions were not available Wednesday.

Police said they expected charges against two men who were burned. Police Chief Robert Stell told the Star Beacon of Ashtabula that investigators believe two visitors and one Park Haven resident knew about the meth lab.

An initial investigation indicated that the blaze broke out in a room where someone — possibly a visitor — apparently had brought in what was needed to make meth, rather than a room used as a makeshift lab, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive stimulant. Mobile meth labs, also called one-pot or shake-and-bake labs, usually consist of a 2-liter bottle and the drug’s ingredients, said Bob Frey, the department’s chief of health assessment.

Shaking the mixture agitates the chemicals and produces the heat needed to cook the drug. But it can also cause a violent reaction that could melt or rupture the container. The explosion or fire usually is confined to the person making the drug and the surrounding area, Frey said.

The fire damaged one room and part of a second-floor hallway at the nursing home, which has 31 rooms, according to auditor’s records.

More than 30 residents remained at the facility and six residents were relocated, but it wasn’t clear why, Department of Health spokeswoman Tessie Pollock said.

She noted that a contractor had been called to the site because of concerns over air quality after the fire.

At the time of the fire, emergency personnel evacuated the home and residents were permitted to temporarily return to certain areas of the home once the fire was extinguished, Pollock said. She said the health department is working to determine if the home is safe to inhabit over the long term.

A number of factors are considered when making decisions on whether to move residents, Pollock said, including any behavioral health concerns.

“I think it takes special care that if they are going to be transferred they have continuity of care because patient safety and health are a top priority,” she said.

Park Haven was cited last year for inadequate care and more than a dozen other violations, state records show.

Alleged violations found in a December survey included inadequate care, failure to investigate how a resident was injured and improperly responding to residents’ complaints about missing property. The facility’s plan of correction said it would go over proper care policies and reporting procedures with staff and would replace residents’ missing items.

A review of the home in June resulted in citations for violations that alleged Park Haven failed to provide proper care for a resident in pain from a fractured leg and another whose vital signs changed critically.

A federal rating system gives the nursing home one star out of five — the lowest possible on health inspections and quality measures. Inspectors noted 11 fire safety violations in 2010 and 2011, including a finding that the building did not have a written emergency evacuation plan.

The facility and an official from the company that owns it did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment Wednesday

An attorney previously said Park Haven would have no comment.

Associated Press writers Kevin Begos in Pittsburgh and JoAnne Viviano in Columbus contributed to this report.