Thirty-eight bundles of marijuana were recovered from the tanker, while 40 more remain inside, according to Los Angeles Police Detective Gus Villanueva.
Specially trained fire department crews entered the tanker and started to remove the bundles, but they came across an object that led them to believe that the narcotics may be rigged with explosives. They pulled back and decided to wait for the LAPD Bomb Squad.
"They found a small cylinder-type, the size of a thermos, inside the container. That's the reason why we called the bomb squad to make sure that we don't have some type of booby trap that could bring a disastrous situation here in the train yard," said L.A. Fire Department Capt. Steve Ruda.
The bomb squad set a charge and detonated the small cylindrical object at 5 p.m.
"The explosion created enough destructive force to destroy the suspicious cylinder but not to destroy the integrity of the container," said Ruda, referring to the tank car.
Ruda said the squad was in the process of determining what the object was and whether it was safe for crews to continue removing the marijuana bundles.
Union Pacific confirmed Monday that the rail tanker is from Mexico. It entered the United States on July 5 and arrived in the Union Pacific Commerce rail yard on Saturday.
The tanker is a 30,000-gallon cylindrical carrier that is about 10 feet wide and 60 feet long. Inside the tanker, some type of greasy substance covered all the bundles of drugs, presenting a potential health risk to the firefighters.
Two firefighters were taken to the hospital for evaluation after experiencing rapid heartbeats.
The incident began when police initiated a pursuit of a possible DUI driver who was driving at very high speeds at around 10:45 p.m. Sunday near Union Pacific Avenue and Esmeralda Drive. At one point, police lost the suspect but found the car abandoned in the area of Eastern Avenue and Tuttle Street.
Police found three packages of marijuana in the vehicle, and after a search of the perimeter, three suspects were arrested. One of the suspects told police they got the marijuana from a railroad container at Union Pacific Avenue and Indiana Street. Authorities moved the tanker about a half-block to a safer area, and additional bundles were found inside.
The suspects remained in custody Monday, according to Villanueva, who was not certain of the charges. Their names were not released.