In Chattahoochee forest, in December 1985, as usual, there were several inhabitants: obviously bears, wolves and other animals, but try to imagine. One minute a bear trying to find enough berries to survive another boring day in the Chattahoochee forest and the next minute he’s ripping fat rails of pure Colombian cocaine!
The black bear weighing about 80 kilograms, later called “Pablo Eskobear”, clear reference to the Colombian drug boss and the word “Bear”, found a series of plastic bags full of cocaine, weighing about 40 kilograms!
Attracted by the contents of the bags, the poor bear ingested the white powder and, of course, he died.
The retired medical examiner who performed the bear’s necropsy (an autopsy for an animal), shortly after his death, declared that his stomach was literally packed to the brim with cocaine, and there isn’t a mammal on the planet that could survive that. Cerebral hemorrhaging, respiratory failure, hyperthermia, renal failure, heart failure, stroke. You name it, that bear had it.
But where 40 kg of Cocaine came from, worth $15 million?
The story of the bear intersects with that of Andrew Thornton.
If you don’t know his story, Andrew was one of those polo club, Sayre School, stud farm kids back in the ’60s. He was probably always up to no good, so ended up in a military academy, and then the army. After he’d had enough of that he became a Lexington narcotics cop. A polo-playing drug cop! A few years later, in 1977, he was a practicing Lexington lawyer.
In 1981, he was accused of stealing weapons from a California naval base and conspiring to smuggle half a ton of pot into the U.S.
He plead not guilty and was arrested as a fugitive in North Carolina, wearing a bulletproof vest and packing a pistol.
He somehow managed to get these felony charges dropped, and the story was ended only with a small fine, six months in prison and a suspended law license. As soon as he was released, Thornton was back!
On September 11, 1985, Thornton was flying over the Kentuky area by private plane, while on a coke-smuggling run from Colombia and after dropping packages off in northern Georgia.
Unfortunately for him the airplane had a fault and he was forced to jump with the parachute, so he jumped, got tangled in his parachute and fell to his death.
When they found him he was wearing night vision goggles, another bulletproof vest and Gucci loafers. He also had $4500 in cash, some knives and two pistols!
And, yeah, he had a duffel bag filled with about 75 pounds of cocaine, which at the time, that was $15 million worth!
Investigators suspected that the cocaine found was not the only one present on the aircraft, but for a few months the investigations did not lead to anything.
Three months after Thornton’s bizarre death, the dead black bear was found in Georgia’s Chattahoochee National Forest.
Here’s how the story was tell by the New York Times:
“Cocaine and a Dead Bear
BLUE RIDGE, Ga., Dec. 22 (UPI) — A 175-pound (about 80 kilograms) black bear apparently died of an overdose of cocaine after discovering a batch of the drug, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said today. The cocaine was apparently dropped from a plane piloted by Andrew Thornton, a convicted drug smuggler who died Sept. 11 in Knoxville, Tenn., because he was carrying too heavy a load while parachuting. The bureau said the bear was found Friday in northern Georgia among 40 opened plastic containers with traces of cocaine.”
So, cocaine had been found, and the bear “Pablo Eskobear” certainly became the largest consumer of drugs in the world!
Due the uniqueness of his death the bear was stuffed, and then gifted to the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, where it was displayed in the visitor center behind a plaque without mention of his story.
A month later, it was gone.
The bear had been sold to country singer Waylon Jennings, then given to a friend and at the end auctioned off, bought by a Chinese businessman who brought it home.
Some time ago the association Kentuky for Kentuky tracked him down and, with the support of the entrepreneur’s widow, Mrs. T’ang, brought him back home, exposed today at the Kentuky Fun Mall in Lexington.