Florida trucker and rig still missing

| 10/5/2001

Authorities continue their search for a Florida truckdriver who disappeared three weeks ago along with the truck he was driving. William Casey Ellis, 22, of Ocala was last seen driving a truck owned by Lester Coggins Trucking (LCT).

Ellis tried to deliver a load of concentrated orange juice on Sept. 13 in Cincinnati, but the recipient of the load refused to take it because it had apparently been damaged, a LCT official told Land Line. Ellis then asked the company for permission to travel to the Charleston, WV, area to attend a family funeral. Authorities have since learned that there were no known funerals in the family.

He then stopped by his father's home in West Virginia, spent the night and the following day left to find a place to dispose of the load. The Marion County Sheriff's Office is unclear what may have happened to Ellis after visiting his father. He has not been seen since. Since his disappearance, the Global Positioning System installed in the truck apparently has been disconnected. The last satellite track had him positioned four miles from Tornado, WV.

His LCT credit card was last used on Sept. 16 in West Virginia, but clerks at the truckstop could not positively identify the man as being Ellis, the Ocala Star-Banner reported. The Okahumpka, FL, truck company later filed a stolen vehicle report with authorities and has since cancelled all company cards and supplies he needed to conduct business.

Ellis was reported missing by family on Sept. 27. "We talked to him the day after the bombings," his mother, Robin Wilson, told the newspaper. "It's not like him not to call and check on his daughter." Wilson helps care for the 2-year-old girl.

The missing driver and truck are authorized to haul hazardous materials. LCT says its drivers are required to have valid hazardous chemicals transport licenses. Sonny Price, the company's director of safety, said the truck and trailer, which was transporting orange juice at the time of Ellis' disappearance, should not have been labeled with a hazmat placard. "The load had nothing to do with hazmat and was marked as such," Price said. LCT hauls Group 2 and 3 package hazmat, which is classified as medium and minimal danger.

The tractor, a white 1999 Kenworth with Florida tag A7629C, and its trailer, a 1998 Great Dane with Ohio tag C0283M, have been listed in the national stolen vehicle computer. Price said the tractor and trailer both have blue and yellow stripes and display the company's "LCT" on the sides. The tractor also has the identification number 907 on the side and the trailer has an identification of N3858.

Anyone with information about the truck or Ellis' whereabouts should contact the Marion County Sheriff's Office at (352) 732-9111.