The Edmond Sun

February 26, 2013

Agency honors fire official for investigative work

Mark Schlachtenhaufen
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — In July, Edmond dispatch received a call about an explosion at Arcadia Lake’s Scissortail Campground.

When Edmond Fire Department personnel arrived on the scene they found a small smoldering fire inside an RV parked at a campsite. They found two victims with burns — a 35-year-old female and a 43-year-old male. No other campers in the area were injured. A camper at a nearby site rendered first aid.

Both of the victims were transported by EMSA to the Paul Silverstein Burn Center at INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center.

Edmond’s hazmat unit responded to the scene as did personnel with the Edmond Police Department. Fire Maj. Gary Dill investigated the scene, gathering evidence both inside and outside of the RV.

Dill said evidence, which included statements from the two campers at the hospital, did not add up to a traditional propane explosion.

It turned out three 20-ounce soda bottles were removed from the campsite. A method called “shake and bake” or the “one-pot method” is used to produce meth in a 2-liter soda bottle. Cold pills are crushed and mixed with common but noxious household chemicals and shaken in the bottle.

When the meth lab was discovered, the incident became a Police Department matter as well. After receiving treatment at the burn center, Owen Lee Dandridge, 43, of Kellyville, was transported to the Oklahoma County jail.

The case had been scheduled to go to trial on Feb. 25, but on Feb. 6, Dandridge pleaded guilty to felony charges of manufacturing a controlled dangerous substance (meth) and possession of a precursor substance within intent to manufacture a controlled dangerous substance.

Dandridge was sentenced to a 25-year suspended sentence except for the first 11 years to be served at the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. Upon release he will be supervised by the DOC for two years.

Charges of possession of a controlled dangerous substance within 1,000 feet of a park, third-degree arson and endangering a human life during the commission of arson were dismissed by the state’s request.

Edmond Fire Chief Jake Rhoades recently recognized Dill for his investigation that contributed to the conviction. Rhoades said arson can be a difficult crime to investigate since evidence often is destroyed in a fire. Every arson case is important, in part, because the crime can lead to loss of property and life, he said.

Dill is a tremendous investigator because of his attention to detail and his willingness to do what is necessary to gather information, Rhoades said. Dill does an excellent job in all aspects of investigation, the fire chief said.

Dill said receiving the recognition, which occurred during a ceremony in front of his peers, was humbling. He said one of the keys to a successful arson investigation is keeping an open mind, seeing what the evidence says.

One of the rewards of this particular case is knowing that a person who potentially could have harmed someone else in a future explosion is off the streets and behind bars, Dill said.

Dill has been with the Edmond Fire Department for 33 years. | 341-2121, ext. 108