MISSOULA, Montana (KPAX) — With record-high temperatures, it was not the day to leave chicken sitting out. But tens of thousands of pounds of poultry were baking for hours in an abandoned semi-trailer, apparently all part of a bizarre ransom plot.
If you’ve been to the Town Pump truck stop near the Missoula Wye, you might have been wondering, what is that smell? Well it all starts with an abandoned semi trailer that’s been sitting in the parking lot.
“It’s very unusual. We take reports of recovered stolen vehicles and recovered property quite often but never in this magnitude,” Missoula County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Paige Pavalone said.
Temperatures reached into the 90s on Wednesday as 35,000 pounds of chicken sat rotting away in the sun.
“The tractor trailer company was notified by the driver who took the truck, who said if you want this vehicle back…you’re going to have to send me some money. So, essentially he was holding it for ransom,” said Pavalone.
Dixie River Freight, based out of Nampa, Idaho reported their trailer had been stolen nearly a month ago. The contents inside was estimated to be worth about $80,000 while the trailer itself is valued at about $65,000.
“We’re not sure how long it’s been there. One of our deputies on the patrol shift [Tuesday] was called up there to verify that there was in fact stolen tractor trailer there,” said Pavalone.
The Missoula County Sheriff’s deputy who investigated also reported that juices were spilling out, potentially making the trailer a bio-hazard.
“I think the biggest problem with where it is right now is that it can cause a nuisance, the odors can cause more and more of a nuisance,” Missoula City-County Environmental Health Supervisor Shannon Therriault explained.
Therriault told MTN News that the leaking juices may also contain bacterias like salmonella. The agency wants to move the truck as soon as possible – but there’s a hold up.
“The insurance companies ask that it remain in the same location until they are able to investigate it,” said Pavalone.
“Normally they could have hooked up a tow truck and towed it to the landfill, but what we’re concerned about is – we don’t want contents leaking all over the road or on cars,” said Therriault.
She added that a local disposal service is working to see if either it can remove some contents at the site, or wrap up the trailer before transport.
It could take another day or a week before this trailer gets moved. The Missoula County Sheriff’s Office says they have no idea where the driver may be, and no warrant has been issued for an arrest.