Thieves steal garbage truck to transport tons of stolen copper

MORGANTON, NC - By Steve Ohnesorge - bio l email

MORGANTON, NC  (WBTV) – A stolen truck loaded with $250,000 worth of copper that was also stolen was abandoned along Interstate 40 in Morganton Thursday morning after three tires blew apart.

Authorities said the tires blew because the thieves had too much stolen copper in the truck's container. The truck was designed to haul 20 tons of material.

The copper weighed in at close to 35 tons.

Detectives said it all began Wednesday night in Morganton where what's called a "roll off container truck" was stolen.  The truck was stolen just after midnight at a Progress Energy work yard in Asheville. Two men wearing what appears to be ski masks took the empty truck in, loaded up a container full of copper, and calmly drove off. Progress Energy was planning to recycle the copper wire and officials say that's why it was already loaded in the container that the thieves took.

Detective Austin Hensely said it was fortunate the thieves "chose a truck that was incapable of carrying that much weight."  If the tires had not blown, said Hensley, "It would have been a sizeable loss for Progress Energy."

Once the truck was abandoned near mile marker 104 on the eastbound shoulder of Interstate 40, the thieves probably just walked away, say detectives. They think it is possible there could have been a vehicle following them that could have picked them up.

Officials say it is lucky the truck did not go out of control and hit other vehicles in the 50-mile journey from Asheville.

Anyone with information should call the Burke County Sheriff's Office at 828-438-5500.

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