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Meth Lab Crashes on Likely Bush Route

by John Stang
Tri-City Herald, August 21, 2003

The thought ran through Detective Gary Bolsters' mind: What if one of the Mid-Columbia sights that President Bush sees Friday is a wrecked methamphetamine lab?

He had good reason.

That's because a pickup hauling a trailer full of meth manufacturing equipment flipped Wednesday afternoon on the most likely route Bush would take to a quick tour and speech at Ice Harbor Dam on Friday morning.

"I hope we tow it tonight," said Bolster, of the Walla Walla County Sheriff's Department detective, at the accident scene early Wednesday evening.

The rolling meth lab flipped at the intersection of Highway 124 and Ice Harbor Drive about 12:30 p.m.

There are only two potential routes from the Tri-Cities Airport and Highway 12 to Ice Harbor Dam on the Snake River.

One is the Pasco-Kahlotus Highway in Franklin County, turning onto the Ice Harbor Dam Road. Several segments of the Pasco-Kahlotus Highway are gravel, which would significantly slow any presidential caravan.

From that direction, the caravan would have to thread its way across the top of the dam to reach the Walla Walla County side of the Snake River. That's where the dam's parking lot and the main entrance to its interior are located.

The other possibility is turning onto Highway 124 in Burbank on the Walla Walla County side of the Snake River, then taking a left turn on Ice Harbor Drive to reach the dam's main entrance. This route is paved all the way and wider.

There also is a back road leading to the dam from Charbonneau Park.

Early Wednesday afternoon, a red pickup hauling a large fifth-wheel travel trailer tried to turn left from Highway 124 onto the road to Ice Harbor -- about 3 miles from the dam. It failed, flipping truck and trailer onto the passenger side in the grass.

The driver either walked or ran away before the Washington State Patrol and Walla Walla County deputies arrived, witnesses said.

When he arrived, a deputy smelled acetone, an ingredient used in manufacturing methamphetamine. A suspicious fuel can also had fallen off the trailer.

And deputies had been keeping tabs on this truck and trailer all summer, suspicious about how it moved from park to park along the Snake River and at its junction with the Columbia River, Bolster said. However, deputies never had sufficient cause to obtain a search warrant, he said.

Inside, deputies and patrol troopers found a "very large meth lab," Bolster said.

A hazardous materials team consisting of state patrol officers, Columbia and Walla Walla county deputies and Walla Walla police removed the chemicals and equipment.

Bolster declined to name the suspected driver. He said he could not be sure if the sheriff's department's prime suspect is the same person who drove the pickup Wednesday.

The driver leaving the scene appeared to be a white man of medium height in his late 30s or 40s.

People with information on this incident are asked to contact the Walla Walla Sheriff's Department at 527-3268.

by John Stang
Meth Lab Crashes on Likely Bush Route
Tri-City Herald - August 21, 2003

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