When the News 4 I-Team first reported on complaints of former employees that lead exposure at The Range at Dave’s made them sick, its owner said it was one of the safest, cleanest ranges in the region.
Now, the gun range’s doors are closed and its owner faces $9,300 in safety violations from Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Even the state agency who investigated them is unclear why they have closed down.
"The business is closed and there's a for sale sign on the property, that's all we know," said Steve Hawkins, TOSHA assistant commissioner.
The employees blamed the ventilation system and lack of proper equipment for lead cleanup for their health problems.
"My doctor doesn't pull any punches. He looks at me and says, ‘You're going to die,’" said Tony May, a former employee. “I never had headaches before. Now I have constant headaches."
TOSHA then launched their own investigation and found many serious violations, including lead levels on many surfaces throughout the range and the front office.
"There was lead present pretty much throughout the facility, which is a pretty serious hazard," Hawkins said.
When the I-Team went inside in May, the owner, Terry Hassler, blamed the employees for not following his safety guidelines and predicted that state inspectors would find nothing wrong.
“We're one of the cleanest, safest indoor facilities in all of East Tennessee," Hassler said.
The I-Team asked TOSHA if the range was an unsafe environment for employees.
"With this level of lead that we found on the surfaces, potentially, yes, it's unsafe," Hawkins said.
The I-Team tried to reach out to Hassler, but his voicemail was full.
On the range’s Facebook page, a post reads, “The decision (to close) was simply financial…no closure due to threats from former employees or disgruntled family members, no drug use or poison of any kind.”
Even though the range has shut down, TOSHA reports it is not immune to having to pay the penalties.
The owner can dispute the violations, but so far, the state hasn’t heard from him.
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