A truck containing 37,000 pounds of now-rotten chicken may have sat in a western Montana truck stop for more than a month while its driver texted and called his employer demanding money, police said.
The driver abandoned the trailer at some point after Dixie River Freight Inc. refused his demands, and he left the frozen cargo worth $80,000 to thaw and then rot when the fuel for the trailer’s refrigeration unit ran out.
The trailer still sat at the Flying J Truck Stop west of Missoula on Thursday, dripping rancid juices onto the concrete and attracting flies. Police in Nampa, Idaho, are searching for the driver, 42-year-old Christopher Hall, who had been wanted for a parole violation and now faces a possible theft charge.
The truck was discovered Tuesday, though Nampa police Sgt. Joe Ramirez said it may have been left there more than a month ago.
Hall picked up the trailer in Springdale, Arkansas, on Aug. 20 and was supposed to deliver it to Kent, Washington, the next day, police said.
Hall texted and called Dixie River Freight several times for more money, but the company refused to pay him until he delivered the load, Ramirez said.
The freight company reported the truck stolen on Aug. 27 when it did not arrive, police said. The trailer’s refrigerator apparently continued running until the fuel ran out, finally drawing attention — and the flies — to the load.
On Thursday, the trailer was surrounded by sawhorses and crime-scene tape at the truck stop as temperatures approached the 90-degree range for a second straight day.
Alisha Johnson with the Missoula City-County Health Department said Dixie River’s insurance company was in charge of cleaning up the mess — and it’s not a simple job.
It involves getting the landfill prepared to receive the load, Johnson told the Missoulian on Thursday. “They’ll probably have to dig a separate hole for this.”
“There’s a possibility of re-freezing the trailer, but that could make it harder to off-load if it’s frozen together,” she said.
Moving the trailer without re-freezing the cargo would add another gross-out factor.
“People don’t want rotting chicken juice all over their cars if it’s transported down the highway or down the roadway,” Shannon Therriault, environmental health supervisor with the health department, told KECI-TV. “There are things that are in raw chicken that can make you sick, and we don’t want someone to incidentally get it on their hands and then ingest it.”