The Mysterious Fertilizer Truck BOLO

By Randy Taylor, Independent Analyst

12 June 2005: On Wednesday, May 25, 2005 Randy McDaniel, 50, a driver with J & M Transport of Cabot, Arkansas picked up a 51,000-pound load of urea fertilizer in Little Rock. Operating a red 1996 Volvo tractor with Arkansas plate F254068 with a J & M Transport logo on the door and a towing white trailer with Oklahoma plate 2106FB, McDaniel never made it to his destination in Stuttgart, Arkansas.

A week later - on Wednesday, June 1, 2005, Highway Information Sharing and Analysis Center issued a bulletin about the missing J & M Transport truck, the driver and cargo. The FBI became involved, at that time citing the potential for the cargo to be used as a critical component in a fertilizer-based explosive. BOLO’s or “Be on the Lookout” bulletins were issued, and FBI agents searched the Arkansas area for the missing truck, its driver and contents.

On Friday, June 3, 2005, an employee of Little Rock Wastewater Utilities spotted the missing truck abandoned behind Halbert Pipe & Steel Company Inc, 400 North Olive Street in North Little Rock while running an errand for the company. The driver and the 51,000 pounds of urea fertilizer were missing, and notable is that the location where the truck was found was in close proximity to a cross-country Interstate.

Later that day, the FBI called off their search for the missing fertilizer as they determined that the cargo “was not particularly dangerous.” According to FBI spokesman Special Agent Steve Frazier, the Terrorism Task Force “determined that the missing fertilizer was urea-based and used primarily for grass and rice - not the more hazardous nitrate-based fertilizer.”

As of today, McDaniel and the fertilizer are still missing, and McDaniel has not been in contact with his girlfriend or family members since the time of his May 25th disappearance. Currently, the theft of the fertilizer is being investigated as a criminal matter by the local authorities rather than a potential terrorist threat as initially classified.

Memories of February 26, 1993

At 12:17 pm on February 26, 1993, an explosion ripped through multiple levels of the World Trade Center parking garage, killing six people and injuring over one thousand more. Few people remember or fully understand the extent of the damage caused by that bomb, contained in a truck parked on the B-2 level of the North Tower’s parking garage.

The blast created a crater six stories high, tearing through steel and reinforced concrete nearly a foot thick on two levels above the bomb, leaving a gaping 18′ by 22′ hole in the lobby of the Vista Hotel. The downward blast pulverized 15,000 square feet of concrete and obliterated the steel reinforcements three stories downward. The blast also cracked a cast-iron pipe that brought water from the Hudson into the air conditioning system, flooding the lower areas. It also ripped a 7 ton steel support brace and tossed it 40 feet. The main explosive component of the bomb was 1,200 pounds of urea nitrate fertilizer.

As documented by Dr. Laurie Mylroie in The War Against America, the urea nitrate was divided up into manageable weights, wrapped in plastic and placed into boxes in the cargo area of the truck. The trigger was nitroglycerine fixed into the urea nitrate and additional components were added to the cargo to give it increased effectiveness.

Urea Fertilizers as Explosives

Urea fertilizer is the most common fertilizer used and accounts for 40 percent of worldwide fertilizer use, according to the Fertilizer Institute. Explosives made of urea nitrate have been used in the Middle East, South America, Pakistan and the United States prior to the World Trade Center bombing. While urea fertilizer would not necessarily be the method of choice for a truck bomb, its effectiveness when turned into urea nitrate has already been proven, and as it is more available than the more volatile compounds, its use as a bomb component cannot be discounted. Because of its chemical structure, urea fertilizer is more stable than ammonium nitrate, the component used in the April 19, 1995 truck bomb in Oklahoma City that claimed 171 lives. Although it takes more knowledge in chemistry to produce a powerful explosive from urea fertilizer, it can and obviously has been done – with deadly results.