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Two critically injured in possible meth blaze

Two critically injured in possible meth blaze
Two critically injured in possible meth blaze
Indiana State Police troopers Katrina Greenwell, left, and Paul Andry take a break Monday afternoon while sorting through items that are sometimes used to manufacuture methamphetamine. Dia Glenn and Tracy Dunaway escaped the burning second floor through the window and onto the porch roof. (Photo by Jackie Carpenter)

A man and a woman are fighting for their lives following an apparent methamphetamine-related blaze early Sunday at Valley City that caught both of them on fire.
Dia Glenn, 34, and Tracy Dunaway, 32, remained in critical but stable condition early yesterday in the burn unit at University Hospital in Louisville. They were transported there by ambulance Sunday morning after fire broke out in the upper level of the home rented by Glenn, a small, vinyl-sided house off Heth-Washington Road.
Glenn’s father, Denny Kirkham of Corydon, arrived at the house before emergency crews to find his daughter outside the house, charred black by fire and screaming.
‘To pull up to the house, thinking you will have a TV-like scene, with the house completely burned down and an ambulance going down the road … and there’s your daughter, burning from head to toe, screaming.
‘And me ‘ I’m not ready for that.
‘Nobody ever wants to see their child the way I saw mine,’ Kirkham said. ‘Nobody wants to see that.’
Dunaway was lying on the ground.
The scene replays in Kirkham’s mind constantly. And that of Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept. Chief Gary L. Gilley, who also arrived on the scene shortly after 8 that morning.
A Vietnam veteran who was wounded in action, Gilley said he witnessed other burn victims while undergoing treatment at a MASH unit. ‘I’ve seen burn units in Vietnam,’ he said. ‘This is bad.’
One of the first at the scene Sunday morning, Heth Township Volunteer Fire Dept. Assistant Chief Danny Stults said the burn injuries weren’t the worst he has seen. In the worst, he said, the persons were dead.
It took only about 10 minutes to extinguish the fire. The department was able to respond quickly because volunteers were only a few miles away, barbecuing chicken for the annual fire department dinner that would be served later that day at the Heth-Washington Elementary School.
Gilley commended the fire department’s quick action. ‘That house should have burnt to the ground and it probably would have,’ Gilley said. ‘But they responded so quickly and did such a good job, it reduced the danger to the neighbors.’
Gilley, who has been at the forefront in investigating drug cases for the sheriff’s department, said the fire is under investigation and possible methamphetamine-related criminal charges may be filed.
Three officers with the Indiana State Police Clandestine Laboratory Investigation Unit were on the scene Monday with Gilley to serve a search warrant. ISP troopers Paul Andry, Katrina Greenwell and Jackie Smith donned protective gear and went inside the house to gather and catalogue items commonly used to manufacture meth.
They spread a blue tarp on the ground to protect it from possible contamination as they placed suspect items there.
Dep. Prosecutor Lauren Wheatley brought cold drinks for the officers about 4 o’clock and stood watch.
Among the items found on the first floor: Heet, hydrogen peroxide, clear plastic tubing, a double neck flask, pseudoephedrine, Coleman fuel, butane tanks, three sets of digital scales, coffee filters, duffle bag, 9×12-inch Pyrex baking dish, quart-size canning jars, gloves and a roll of yellow tape like that used by police to designate crime scenes, but this one said, ‘Beware men cooking.’
Smith said after the search, ‘There was a meth lab in the residence, but we can’t say that a meth lab caused the fire.’
He also said, ‘We found items associated with meth labs in a car in the garage.’ The car was registered to Glenn, he said.
Glenn’s mother and stepfather, Linda and Rocky Byrd, were at the hospital Monday night. And Linda staunchly defended her daughter.
‘I know my daughter. She wouldn’t be involved in anything like that,’ her mother said. ‘She’s always burning candles, and I think that’s what caused the fire.’
Linda said her daughter’s condition was upgraded from critical to serious yesterday afternoon, and doctors expect to begin skin grafts and surgical procedures soon. There was no information available yesterday on Dunaway’s condition.
‘Dia will need a lot of blood,’ her mother said, ‘if anyone would like to donate in her name.’
To make a special blood donation, call 1-800-732-8772. The blood type does not need to match Glenn’s.
Linda expects her daughter will remain in the burn unit for three months and will be kept in a drug-induced coma for another couple of months.
Scott Dunaway, one of Tracy’s three brothers, said yesterday that Tracy is also expected to remain in the burn unit for some time. ‘They’re saying the absolute best-case scenario is he will be in that room 1-1/2 to 2 months.’
Doctors also expect to start skin grafts soon, but Scott said he doesn’t know yet if his brother will require blood transfusions. ‘We will stand behind him, whatever it takes,’ Scott said. Scott’s wife, Laurie, said, ‘As a family, we’re definitely behind Tracy 100 percent.’
The family had expected a call of some type regarding Tracy Dunaway, who has had problems with meth previously, but not the type that came. ‘We knew that meth would be a problem with Tracy; we knew if he didn’t get help, it would not go away,’ Tracy’s sister-in-law, Laurie Dunaway, said. ‘We’re hoping this, for Tracy Dunaway, is the turning point, and somehow he will be changed.’
To hear the story of David Parnell, the man from Tennessee who has spoken here several times about his personal battle with methamphetamine, is to hope for a better tomorrow. Parnell attempted to kill himself with a shotgun but only blew off a good part of his face. After extensive treatment, which is continuing, Parnell is drug free today, and that gives others hope, Laurie said.
About 50 percent of Dunaway’s body was burned; with Glenn, it was more than 60 percent.
Kirkham said he knows his daughter has always been a nervous type, thin and hyper, so he has given no thought to any possible involvement with meth. ‘Regardless of their age, you need to know what’s going on with your family. I did not know; I had been in that house three times, and I did not know,’ Kirkham said.
‘This is not the last time something like this will happen,’ Kirkham said. ‘The problem has spread too far; it’s rampant. People can’t act like this doesn’t happen.’
That’s unfortunately true, said Gilley. ‘It can happen in any neighborhood, on any road, at any location. The potential exists for this exact same thing to happen anywhere in Harrison County.’
He believes the situation would be far worse had Harrison County not taken the proactive approach to solving the problem of meth.
‘We are the second most proactive county in the state,’ from the sheriff’s department, the prosecutor’s office, the court, the state police and the WHAM! (War in Harrison County Against Meth) coalition, Gilley said.
‘We are all fighting this with every means at our disposal.’