Drug lab far from new

An abandoned drug operation that the owner of an Alhambra mobile home stumbled across in his basement is believed to date back a number of years, said Rocky Mountain House RCMP.

An abandoned drug operation that the owner of an Alhambra mobile home stumbled across in his basement is believed to date back a number of years, said Rocky Mountain House RCMP.

“It pre-dates the current owners of the property. It probably pre-dates the owners before that,” said RCMP Cpl. Mark Burnell. “It’s been sitting there for a while.”

Burnell confirmed that neither of the previous two owners of the property are suspects in the ongoing investigation. Police were quick to confirm that the owner who found the clandestine drug operation concealed in a basement underneath a mobile home on May 25 had nothing to do with the crime. The man had bought the property about 1 1/2 years ago and lived there with his family of five.

However, some had wrongly jumped to the conclusion that it must be connected to the previous owner, he said.

Rocky RCMP are working with Red Deer RCMP’s drug section to determine who may have been behind the drug operation, which had been sitting idle for a considerable time. It was reportedly hidden behind a panel in the basement of the home in the hamlet about 15 km east of Rocky.

“Because it’s kind of historical now, it’s not going to be an easy solve,” he said. “The property has changed hands several times in the last five years or so.

“We have a name of a person we’re interested in.”

Burnell described what the police found as a “form of marijuana grow op.”

The lab was not related to methamphetamine, he said. “It was not nearly as hazardous as a meth lab would be.

“(But) it’s not something we would want in Alberta, let alone in Rocky.”

Police are also reluctant to provide too many details on the scale of the operation found while the current owner was removing a mobile home from the site.

“There was certainly more than what you would consider for personal use,” said Burnell. “It isn’t nearly as involved as some of them can be.”

The RCMP left nothing to chance when the lab was discovered.

Police, a hazardous materials team and other emergency workers blocked off the entrance to the hamlet. The blockade was later pulled back to within a few blocks of the home.

The incident turned tragic when an ambulance, carrying a police officer who had been exposed to chemicals found at the drug site, was hit head on as it was heading to a hospital in Rocky Mountain House.

The driver of the other vehicle was airlifted to an Edmonton hospital, where he later died.

The 29-year-old Rocky Mountain House paramedic at the wheel of the ambulance was airlifted to a Calgary hospital, where he remains in stable condition. He has undergone one operation so far and is expected to need at least one more in his long road to recovery, said Burnell.

The police officer suffered minor injuries and a paramedic and emergency medical services student in the rear of the ambulance weren’t hurt.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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