A north man has been jailed for two years after equipment he was using to extract oil from cannabis caused a huge explosion which left him badly burned.
Kevin Dwenger, 40, and another man in the property at the time required weeks of specialist hospital treatment, with Dwenger suffering 19% burns to his body and airways.
The terraced property on MacRae Crescent in Dingwall suffered about £30,000 worth of damage in the blast on Sunday, February 2, last year.
Lawyer says Dwenger still traumatised from blast
Dwenger’s solicitor, Graeme Brown, today told Inverness Sheriff Court that his client had – until then – stayed out of trouble for 10 years.
Mr Brown said Dwenger was a father to children in his previous and current relationships and the explosion “was an unintended consequence”.
He added: “It has had a psychological effect on him and another man was badly injured.
“He accepts full responsibility and resolved this case at an early stage.
“He has learned a valuable lesson. His only reason for growing the plants was to extract CBD oil which is now legally sold.”
Pleas for leniency fall on deaf ears
But Sheriff Margaret Neilson said that jail was the only punishment available.
She said: “This offence is so serious that only a custodial sentence is appropriate.
The court heard that the two men in the property at the time required intensive treatment in a Livingston burns unit.
Dwenger, of Burns Crescent in Dingwall, previously admitted producing a controlled drug and culpable and reckless conduct.
Explosion scattered debris into garden
Fiscal depute David Morton told the court that firefighters were called out on the evening in question after the gas explosion blew out the ground floor windows and patio doors of the house.
He said: “On arrival, there was smoke and flames coming from the rear of the property.
“Dwenger identified himself to the firefighters, saying that he was the occupant.
“He was described as having cuts, bruises and obvious burns to his abdomen.
“On entering, firefighters observed a large quantity of butane gas canisters in the kitchen, with various jars and dishes each containing what they believed to be herbal cannabis. There was significant damage to the property.
“The ground floor windows and the patio doors were completely blown out and lying in the garden.
“A non-retaining internal wall was displaced in the explosion, the entire ground floor wiring and the kitchen had to be replaced.”
Police recovered cannabis after entering damaged flat
He added: “The cost to the landlord to reinstate the property was £28,048, £25,000 of which was met by his insurance company”.
The court heard that there was a small cannabis cultivation upstairs and Dwenger had been involved in trying to extract oil from the herbal cannabis using the gas canisters.
Mr Morton said: “The gas is likely to have built up within the small kitchen space and an unknown item or appliance sparked the explosion, 200 grams of cannabis were ultimately recovered.”
He added that the second individual went to Raigmore Hospital later that day and was treated for upper limb burns on multiple areas of his back, his right hand and nostrils.
Witnesses at the time told how one man was burned down one side of his face and arm after the blast rocked the community.
One local resident – who had lived in the street for 50 years – described how he could see flames coming from the kitchen just moments after “a loud bang”.
Meanwhile, a fellow resident spoke of the horrific injuries inflicted on the occupants of the house.
He said: “About 6.10pm I heard the smoke alarm and I called the fire brigade. I took a walk up and the guy was standing outside on his phone. All his hair was burnt, the right side of his face and his arm and his t-shirt was all burnt. He was quite badly injured.”
Two fire appliances from Dingwall were sent to the scene alongside police and paramedics.