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2 Men Found Dead On Floating Meth Lab In Delta Near Pittsburg

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Authorities said Gary Lee Cooper and James Eugene McRae were found dead on a houseboat on the Delta near Pittsburg on November 25, 2013. The boat contained a meth lab, according to authorities. (Solano County Sheriff)

Authorities said Gary Lee Cooper and James Eugene McRae were found dead on a houseboat on the Delta near Pittsburg on November 25, 2013. The boat contained a meth lab, according to authorities. (Solano County Sheriff)

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PITTSBURG (CBS SF) — Two men found dead onboard a houseboat equipped with a methamphetamine lab in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta near Pittsburg on Monday have been identified, a Solano County sheriff’s spokesman said.

The deceased men have been identified as 72-year-old Concord resident Gary Lee Cooper and 49-year-old Martinez resident James Eugene McRae.

Solano County Sheriff’s Deputy Daryl Snedeker said McRae and Cooper were reported missing by a family member on Monday, when they did not return home from a fishing trip, Snedeker said.

The Contra Costa County sheriff’s marine patrol unit and the U.S.  Coast Guard located the boat near Spoonbill Creek in Solano County, about 6 miles south of Rio Vista, according to Snedeker.

Before boarding the vessel deputies attempted to make contact with the boat’s occupants, but received no response. Upon boarding the vessel, deputies found the lifeless bodies of McRae and Cooper, Snedeker said.

Deputies also located items indicating the consumption and manufacture of methamphetamine, according to Snedeker.

Investigators reported smelling an odd odor within the boat’s cabin and exited the vessel for safety reasons. Additional personnel were called to the scene to determine the nature of the odor, Snedeker said.

Due to the potential hazards associated with manufacturing of meth, the Solano County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Coast Guard secured the boat overnight with the two bodies still onboard, according to deputies.

Three Solano County sheriff’s deputies who initially boarded the boat were transported to a local hospital to be medically cleared after possible exposure to hazardous vapors and odors. The deputies were released after they were examined and showed no signs of illness.

Although the bodies were found by the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office, the Solano County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the case because the vessel was in its jurisdiction, Snedeker said.

Drug Enforcement Administration agents were brought to the scene on Tuesday and verified the clandestine meth lab. The houseboat was towed to the U.S. Coast Guard’s Rio Vista station, where the agents seized the chemicals and lab components, deputies said.

Snedeker said the agents removed McRae and Cooper’s bodies from the vessel in Rio Vista.

The investigation into the cause McRae and Cooper’s deaths is ongoing and the Solano County coroner’s office will be conducting an autopsy in the coming week.

Deputies are urging the public to be aware of the dangers clandestine labs pose to public safety. Exposure to the chemicals used in manufacturing illegal drugs can cause serious bodily injury or death.

Anyone with information regarding this case is urged to contact the Solano County Sheriff’s Office at (707) 421-7090. Anyone who suspects additional narcotics manufacturing is asked to contact their local law enforcement agency immediately.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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