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Martinsburg players exposed to meth at motel

Chris Dorst
Members of Simon Environmental, a Jackson County methamphetamine lab-cleanup company, inspect Motel 6 in Kanawha City Thursday evening. Health officials closed the motel Thursday after several rooms were contaminated by meth. One of the contaminated rooms had been rented to members of a visiting high school basketball team.
Kenny Kemp Martinsburg High School players take to the Charleston Civic Center court in a state championship semifinal Friday evening against George Washington High. Some of the players had to wear junior varsity uniforms delivered earlier in the day from Martinsburg after theirs were contaminated by methamphetamine at a Kanawha City motel.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A West Virginia high school sports official said he didn't know that a Kanawha City motel recently had been contaminated by methamphetamine before placing a boys basketball team there Thursday night.

Four team members from the Martinsburg High School boys basketball team were taken to CAMC General Hospital and later released after being exposed to meth at the Motel 6 on MacCorkle Avenue Southeast, said Gary Ray, executive director of the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission.

On Jan. 30, Charleston police discovered a meth lab inside Room 319 after they were called there for reports of a small fire. The room's occupants had fled the scene before officers arrived, according to reports.

Brandon Lewis, coordinator of the state Bureau of Public Health, said he ordered the room closed and for motel officials to inspect adjacent rooms for meth contamination. He said 17 of the motel's 118 rooms were closed.

On Thursday, players on the Martinsburg boys team checked into the motel in preparation for Friday's 2012 State High School Basketball Championships.

Lewis said he discovered Thursday that at least four boys were placed in room 215, a room that had been ordered closed because of contamination. The four boys were treated at the hospital as a precaution and released with a clean bill of health, Ray said.

On Friday, Lewis discovered that several more previously cleared rooms had been exposed to meth. He shut down the entire motel Friday evening while Simon Environmental, a Jackson County-based company, cleaned up.

Ray said that if he had known about the meth issues at the motel, he would not have allowed the team to stay there.

"I hate to be overly critical of the motel," he said, "but I wish they had said there were issues like that before we checked in."

Ray said there is a list of motels, including Motel 6, which the SSAC cooperates with for tournament events and away games.

Numbers are drawn at random to decide which teams will stay at which motels, he said.

Lewis said it's difficult to determine if the Jan. 30 meth lab is what contaminated the room. He said it's possible that a guest or employee had smoked meth inside the room before the boys arrived.

A report from the Metropolitan Drug Enforcement Network Team said Charleston police had been called to the motel at least four times in the past two years for drug-related offenses.

Lewis said several meth labs have been discovered at the motel since 2008. This is the first time, though, that all of the motel's rooms have been closed for meth cleanup, he said.

Meth's dangerous contaminants can be passed from room to room and linger on countertops, carpets and in bathtubs. Residue where the drug is smoked or cooked can cause eye and skin irritation, vomiting, rashes, problems with asthma and other respiratory issues.

Lewis said it's also possible that motel cleaning staff unknowingly contaminated the rooms by using infected mops and rags.

Simon Environmental is inspecting everything in the motel, Lewis said, including the laundry facilities, keypads and main office. The main office remained open Thursday night, he said, but could be ordered closed if meth is found inside the laundry facilities.

As part of the cleanup process, all personal items left inside the contaminated rooms must be destroyed, Lewis said. The motel was completely booked before all its occupants were evacuated, he said.

"We usually allow them to pick up their wallets or their purses or at least allow them to take stuff out of their purse," Lewis said, "but clothing, laptops, stuff that remains inside the room are destroyed."

JoAnn Denton, a Martinsburg resident, said several of the boys team's jerseys were left inside the room. A parent made the five-hour drive back to Berkley County Thursday night to pick up junior varsity uniforms for the team.

Ray said people with the Motel 6 are "stepping up to the plate" and have promised to replace all items that will be lost in the cleanup.

"The motel is doing everything they can," he said.

Peyton Lewis, a 14-year-old Martinsburg High School student, said she was nervous prior to Friday's game because the team was sleep deprived. The players had been scheduled to practice at 5 p.m. Thursday, but they weren't able to get going until about 9 p.m.

"If we lose," she said, "everyone will blame this."

The team did, in fact, lose Friday - to George Washington High School, 53-51.

Reach Travis Crum at travis.crum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.


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