JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - When Jackson County officers responded to a Vancleave fire Thursday afternoon, they found a familiar face beside it. It was 36-year-old Jason Ethan Fortenberry who was inside his truck when it went up in flames. Authorities also found a partially burned "shake and bake" meth lab inside the vehicle they believe caused the blaze.
"Best we could tell Mr. Fortenberry was sitting in the front of the vehicle, and a meth lab exploded in his lap," said Lt. Curtis Spiers, Commander of the Jackson County Narcotics Task Force. "You're mixing some of the same chemicals that were used to blow up the federal building in Oklahoma City when Timothy McVey killed 300 Americans. Those are all the same chemicals that are used [to make meth]. That's the danger of this."
Jackson County Narcotics Task Force Commander Curtis Spiers said Fortenberry is no stranger to the risks of making meth. He's been on the task force's radar since June.
"We arrested him for manufacturing methamphetamine June 11th. Six days later, June 17th, we arrested him for possession of a large quantity of methamphetamine with intent to distribute," Spiers said.
Spiers said after Fortenberry's second arrest, he was sent to Singing River Hospital where he apparently jumped out of a second story window to try to escape. Spiers said Pascagoula Police caught him shortly after, and he went to jail until September. That's when his attorneys negotiated his release, so he could go to drug rehab.
Spiers said officials had seized Fortenberry's truck earlier in the year, and it was stolen from authorities' car lot shortly after. They had been searching for the truck until Thursday's explosion.
"I know he's a veteran and has served in the wars," Spiers said of Fortenberry. "You've heard me say how addictive meth is, how it gets a hold of people and ruins their lives in a very short period of time. We're talking a six month period of time for this young man."
Fortenberry's accident is indicative of a quickly growing problem in Jackson County, according to Spiers. He said 2009 will be the first year in history the Jackson County Narcotics Task Force will net more methamphetamine arrests than cocaine arrests. Cocaine has topped the list in the past.