Criminal charges are likely coming over the next several days for the Astle Street residents responsible for the Tuesday night home explosion that investigators say was caused by a marijuana extracting operation.
Tewksbury Police Chief Timothy Sheehan told Patch on Wednesday night that detectives are working closely with the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, and will likely bring criminal charges against several Tewksbury residents.
Fire investigators determined the cause of the blast after locating a large amount of butane canisters in the home. It appears the butane fumes consumed the kitchen area, and an electric stove may have sparked the explosion.
“It appeared from the volume of butane, both empty and full cylinders, that this was not just a personal use, personal consumption operation,” said Sheehan. “We have not come across this before. But in getting an education over the last day through video footage, materials on the Internet, and consulting with law enforcement across the nation, the information we have found is that this is becoming a fairly regular occurrence as it comes from west to east.”
In addition to the three residents who were transported by medical helicopter to Boston hospitals, police have also determined the names of two other individuals believed to be involved in the incident. Officers are hoping to locate the man and woman who were seen fleeing the scene in a black pick up truck.
“They are named, but our detectives are physically seeking two additional suspects,” said Sheehan. “The information we have is that they were present before the explosion. We went to the hospital and spoke to at least one of the victims flown from the scene and will continue to have conversations on what took place as well as piecing together physical evidence and witness testimony.”
At the scene of the explosion on Tuesday night, Sheehan said the three Tewksbury residents transported from the property were not residents of the home located at 22 Astle Street. But on Wednesday he said further investigation revealed they were renting an apartment in the multi-family dwelling.
Sheehan added that three other people living in the house were displaced because of the explosion, but they did not suffer injuries.
The process of extracting THC from marijuana is done to create a substance known as honey oil. Sheehan said that it takes a large amount of marijuana to make a small amount of honey oil, a substance that is potent in low dosages.
Police stressed how dangerous the extraction process is, citing incidents where roofs have been blown off homes and structures have been moved off their foundation during similar incidents as the one Tuesday in Tewksbury.
“The volatility of the solvents used to extract the THC are subject to explosion at any point in the production methods,” said Sheehan. “We don’t want anyone out there replicating this process because of the life safety issues it creates.”