Valuable cargo goes up in flame
It probably was the most valuable cargo ever transported in an ITD dump truck. Yet, shortly after delivery, the cargo went up in smoke and few people were on hand to witness the event.
ITD maintenance workers discovered an abnormal level of law enforcement activity around their shed in Banks Tuesday morning, but had no idea they would be drawn into the action.
We knew that there was a lot of covert police activity going around here, but they (officers) didnt want to talk about what was going on, said Banks Maintenance Foreman Dan Bryant. So it wasnt really a surprise when they called us, but it was kind of a surprise that they needed our help.
Acting on an anonymous tip, police congregated at an isolated location in steep terrain above Banks. The tip suggested that a major marijuana-growing operation was hidden in the isolated site and was about to be harvested.
At 11 a.m., a police helicopter found what they were looking for a grove of high-grade marijuana that covered the equivalent of two football fields, complete with a dammed spring and sophisticated irrigation system.
I had a recording in the office that they were looking to remove some marijuana from the forest and they were in dire need of our truck, Bryant explained.
After Bryant secured approval from the District 3 office, the Banks shed became the command center. The helicopter sling transported the contraband plants to a landing sight three miles from the shed on Idaho 55. Maintenance workers then loaded the crop into a 10-wheel dump truck and sealed up the bed with a tarp to prevent accidental spillage.
Its the first time an ITD dump truck had more value than a Loomis Fargo armored car, joked Bryant. We were supposed to dump it in the Payette land fill where they were going to burn it and bury it. But it got too late and the dump had closed. We couldnt leave it where anybody could get at it so we put the truck in the Idaho State Patrol compound.
In all, more than 2,000 high-grade plants, worth up to $6 million on the street, were confiscated, transported and incinerated. Authorities continue to search the area for more plants and eventually will burn and bury anything they find.
Top photos: Eric Copeland, Emmett maintenance lead worker (left) and Dan Bryant, Banks maintenance foreman, stand in a sea of marijuana before the plants were loaded onto an ITD dump truck and hauled away for disposal. Above right: a firsthand look at the illicit plants; left: a police dog guards the crop.