Sheriff's office: Meth lab found in deadly Goose Creek apartment fire

Published: May. 31, 2012 at 4:49 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 4, 2012 at 7:26 PM EDT
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Samuel Garbe
Samuel Garbe

GOOSE CREEK, SC (WCSC) - The Berkeley County Sheriff's Office says that a meth lab was found at a Goose Creek apartment building where three people were found dead following a fire and explosion on Thursday.

The news follows Coroner Bill Salisbury's announcement of a third body found in the fire shortly after midnight Friday morning. Authorities say they were going through rubble at the Pine Harbour Apartment Complex when they discovered the body.

The coroner says that the body suffered from 100 percent thermal burns. An autopsy will be conducted to determine the cause of death.

Salisbury identified the victims as 69-year-old Joseph Raeth, 19-year-old Morgan Abernathy, and 4-year-old Samuel Garbe.  Salisbury said the cause of death would be released after all the test results are in.

Authorities say the bodies of Abernathy and Garbe were found first following a fire that broke out around 12:30 p.m. in a unit in the Pine Harbour Apartment Complex on Harbour Lake Drive.

The third victim, Raeth, was found in an adjacent apartment unit.

Investigators say that one woman also jumped out of a window to escape the fire. She was treated and released for a leg injury.

Berkeley County Sheriff's Office spokesman Dan Moon said the fire is being treated as a crime scene. The investigation is being turned over to the DEA and SLED has also been asked to help with the case.

Moon said Friday investigators have questioned one man but he has since been released, however, several others are being questioned.

Moon also said investigators did not expect to find any other victims among the rubble.

According to a witness on the scene, there was a loud explosion and she saw smoke coming out of her neighbor's apartment. She said she saw two men coughing and yelling for people to come out of the burning apartment.

"It's a crime scene,. We're considering it a crime scene right now at the moment until otherwise," Moon said. "The fire department is in control at the moment. They will release it to us. They are being very careful too because we've got it roped off as a crime scene. Hopefully any evidence in that respect will be protected."

Earlier in the day, the entrance to the apartment complex remained blocked off as police redirected traffic in that area. Officials have not confirmed any information regarding a possible explosion at this time.

Thick, black smoke could be seen from nearby roadways as firefighters battled the flames.

According to the Red Cross, 16 units were destroyed, affecting a total of 46 people. Those displaced in the fire are encouraged to go to the Goose Creek Recreation Center for food and assistance.

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