RIO VISTA, Calif. - The two men found dead in a houseboat Monday were apparently in the process of cooking methamphetamine.
"There is a clandestine lab on that vessel," said Solano County sheriff's spokesman Daryl Snedeker shortly after the houseboat had been towed to the US Coast Guard station at Rio Vista late Tuesday afternoon.
The men have been identified as 72-year-old old Gary Lee Cooper of Concord, the boat's owner, and 49-year-old James Eugene McRae of Martinez.
Snedeker said federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents confirmed initial suspicions by sheriff's deputies investigating the deaths that the houseboat was a floating drug lab.
"That's the reason we locked it down last night," Snedeker said. "For the safety of all the people involved."
Snedeker said Contra Costa County sheriff's deputies made the initial discovery of the bodies Monday about 1:30 p.m. following a report by family members of a missing fisherman.
Contra Costa deputies then alerted the Solano County Sheriff's Department because the houseboat was just across the county line in Spoonbill Creek, about 6 miles from Rio Vista.
Snedeker said the first deputies on the scene noticed a strong chemical smell, which prompted a call to the DEA.
Cooper's family members said he bought the houseboat as a retirement home after living with his daughter and her husband for the past year.
They said they knew nothing about the meth lab.
Cooper's son-in-law, Greg Westbury, said Cooper could often be found in his garden or working on his crafts.
"The guy would do anything for anyone and give the shirt off his back," Westbury said.
Investigators planned to continue examing the boat Wednesday and were still trying to determine the exact cause of death for both men.