News 5 Investigates

May 16, 2014 8:37 PM by Eric Ross

News 5 Investigates: Man burned in hash oil explosion speaks out about dangers

Making hash oil is becoming increasing popular following the legalization of marijuana.

It's cheap to make and some claim it gives them the same "high." Unfortunately, it's extremely dangerous and doctors are seeing more people come in with severe burns.

"I wasn't aware of the danger," Wayne Winkler said. "This one wrong decision almost cost me my entire life."

Winkler suffered third degree burns after a bowl of hash oil exploded in his home, melting the skin on his face and forehead. Explosions like this can happen in the blink of an eye.

"All it takes is a spark or flame," John Schumacher with Advanced Engineering Investigations said.

Schumacher studies and investigates hash oil explosions. He agreed to re-create an explosion with the same tools people use to make the product. The most popular component used to make hash oil is butane.

Schumacher has a combustible gas indicator which tells him how strong or weak butane vapors are. This tool is something most people making hash oil in their homes, including Winkler, don't have.

"Some butane canisters do not have any odor to them," Schumacher said. "So if you're in a room using this to extract hash oil, you may not smell the vapors around you and that's a problem."

Making hash oil has led to 32 explosions in Colorado thus far this year.

"I was literally burned alive in a split-second," Wayne said. "The skin on my hands melted."

With his home on fire and hands burned, Wayne says he tried to call 9-1-1 for help. That's when he realized just how bad his injuries were.

"I go grab my phone and swipe my finger to unlock it and my skin just peeled off," Wayne said.

Wayne was taken to the University of Colorado hospital burn unit in Aurora, the largest burn center in our state.

Camy Boyle, an Associate Nurse Manager in the hospital's burn unit, says most of the victims she's seen come in with second and third degree burns to their face and hands.

"The person may appear to have leather on their hands," Boyle said. "It looks like a white, dry appearance and that's an injury that has to be taken care of in the operating room and then have a skin graft applied."

Two surgeries and a year later, Wayne still suffers from pain and has a mountain of medical-bill debt.

"This one decision cost me an extreme amount of pain," he said. "My medical bills were around $150,000."

It's a debt he's still trying to pay off and says he has stopped making hash oil since the explosion.

He discourages everyone from trying to make hash oil at home.

"Let professionals do it," he said. "If you chose to smoke it, go buy it. Let someone else do it."

Approximately 24 people have been admitted to hospitals with burns related to making hash oil this year. That's an increase from just 18 injuries for the entire year last year.

The legality of hash oil is not approved on a federal level. There's still a "gray" area when it comes to state law.

However, anyone making hash oil that causes an explosion resulting in a fire or damage, can face criminal charges for arson and property damage.



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