Pubdate: Tue, 23 Feb 2010
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Page: 7
Copyright: 2010 The London Free Press
Author: Jane Sims
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


COURTS: Joshua Chladek pleads guilty to drug charges after a lit 
cigarette set off a blast in the illegal grow op he was hiding in a 
rented farmhouse

You'd think Joshua Chladek might know better.

A welder by trade, he should have known sparks and butane don't mix.

The least he could have done was read the label on one of the many 
butane canisters found in the basement of his rented farmhouse.

Even Internet websites on drug production say making marijuana resin 
indoors is "extremely dangerous," the Crown noted on Monday when 
Chladek pleaded guilty to two charges.

So when Chladek, who had his own basement "honey oil" cooking lab 
with 32 kilograms of marijuana and 70 cans of butane, had a nicotine 
craving on April 23, 2008, the results should have been predictable.

They certainly were disastrous.

"He lit up a cigarette and it went kaboom," defence lawyer Andy Rady 
told Superior Court Justice William Jenkins.

Chladek, 26, pleaded guilty to production of cannabis resin, also 
known as hash oil, and arson by negligence for causing the explosion 
that destroyed the farmhouse outside of London two years ago.

His wife, Kathryn, 28, also faces charges but they will be disposed 
of once Chladek is sentenced on May 5.

The house is gone. The explosion blew out one wall and bowed the 
others. Fire raged through it. After the smoke cleared and the 
investigation was over, it had to be razed.

Assistant Crown attorney Peter Rollings told Jenkins that Chladek, 
his wife and two young daughters rented the house on Ilderton Road in 
July 2007 from local farmer William Gysbers.

The renovated brick home on 80 hectares was built in the 1940s and 
was worth between $200,000 and $300,000.

Gysbers and Chladek's wife didn't know about the oil lab. The butane 
was used to soak the marijuana to leach out the resin, which was then 
heated to produce the hash oil.

Gysbers was in a nearby field in his pickup truck when he heard the 
explosion at about 10 p.m., followed by a lot of smoke, dead silence, 
then a woman screaming to call 911.

It looked like a bomb had gone off. Chladek's wife and daughters came 
running out, then Chladek, who was in shock.

His face was red and the skin was burned off his arms. When asked if 
he needed an ambulance, he said yes.

He also said there was a fire in the corner of the basement.

Kathryn Chladek tried to leave in the family car, but the explosion 
cracked all the windows. Instead, she took the kids in her husband's 
pickup truck.

She later told police her husband had gone to the basement for a 
cigarette and she had fallen asleep on the couch on the main floor 
while watching a movie. The kids were upstairs asleep.

The explosion knocked her awake. She ran to retrieve the children and 
when she was heading downstairs, one whole wall was gone.

Fire departments from around the area rushed to the property. There 
was no fire visible immediately but they were advised there was 
butane in the basement and didn't go inside fearing more explosions.

Joshua Chladek was taken to hospital.

Before the demolition, police discovered the butane canisters and the 
marijuana shake -- the stems and remains of the plants -- three 
duffel bags. There was also a cache of drug-making paraphernalia.

"That's a lot of marijuana," Jenkins said after looking at the photos 
of the drugs.

Surprisingly, the large amount of pot would only yield three or four 
ounces of oil, Jenkins was told.

"Hardly worth risking your house for," Jenkins said.

Some of the butane cans were still full, Rollings said. The cause of 
the explosion was a build-up of butane gas in the basement that was 
sparked by an ignition source.

That was likely Chladek's cigarette.

Rollings said experts who investigated the case indicated the 
explosion would have been caused by less than 13 cans of butane.

Two months after the explosion, Chladek, now out of the hospital, 
returned to the scene of the fire on Father's Day. His former 
landlord saw him and told Chladek that "because of what he did, we 
lost the house."

And insurance would not pay, Chladek was told, because what he did 
was an illegal act.

Chladek told Gysbers it wasn't his fault, and nothing more until the 
matter came to court.

Rady said his client meant he didn't mean to cause the explosion.

He said Chladek grew the marijuana himself and didn't tell anyone he 
was making oil. Chladek was planning to bury the shake, Rady said, 
but the ground was still too hard that April.

Chladek still has burn scars on his arms.

There is a lawsuit underway. Chladek has completed a residential drug 
rehabilitation program.

Rady said his client was "lucky." He asked for a pre-sentence report.

Rollings said he expected to provide a victim impact statement from 
the landlord at the sentencing.
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