Hazmat Called After Traffic Stop Turns Up Leaking Anhydrous Ammonia Tank in Stolen Car; Two Arrests Made

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DES MOINES, Iowa – Hazmat crews had to be called out Tuesday morning in Des Moines after a deputy pulled over a stolen car with a leaking tank of anhydrous ammonia in it.

Lt. Ryan Evans with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office says two people have been arrested in connection with the incident, which happened after 8:00 a.m. in the 2000 block of E. 42nd Street.

Lt. Evans says the deputy pulled the car over for not having any plates and after speaking with the driver, 61-year-old William Lane, was able to determine the car was stolen. Lane and a passenger, 50-year-old Helene Latcham, were removed from the vehicle and taken into custody.

A strong odor of anhydrous ammonia was detected by the deputy investigating the vehicle and they found a leaking LP tank of the dangerous gas inside. The gas is a key ingredient in the manufacturing of methamphetamine.

The Des Moines Fire Department’s Hazmat team was called in to assist and the streets around the area were blocked off to traffic.

“It’s…obviously it can really affect people. I mean there’s a lot of negative things with anhydrous, as far as breathing. You definitely don’t want to breathe it in, you don’t want to touch it on your skin. Things like that. So it’s a hazardous situation and we want to make sure the area is safe and keep the officers safe and that’s why you call in the Hazmat team,” said Lt. Evans.

The Hazmat team is working to neutralize the gas because the tank it is currently in is unstable and can’t be transported safely, according to Lt. Rick Thomas with the Des Moines Fire Department. The scene is expected to be clear by 12:30 p.m.

Lane is charged with second-degree theft and possession of anhydrous ammonia as a precursor. Latcham is charged with possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, and unlawful possession of prescription drugs.

The are both being held in the Polk County Jail.

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