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ocaine Bear is a movie that came out on February 24th, 2023, and only a couple of days in it broke the box office record by making almost $30 million dollars in only five days since its release. This American comedy has been inspired by the story of a bear from 1985 who ended up eating almost 80 pounds of cocaine that had been lost by a Columbian plane that was smuggling drugs across the US border via plane.

Movie poster of Cocaine Bear (Source: Universal Pictures)

However, many people are not sure what is fact and what is fiction in the movie. It is important to remember that the story from 1985 was only an inspiration for the movie and that Hollywood has the tendency to stretch the truth.

The True Story of Cocaine Bear from 1985

On September 11, 1985, an elderly man in Kentucky awoke to find a man’s corpse in his driveway – an unusual start to a Wednesday, even if the corpse wasn’t wearing a bulletproof vest and tethered to a parachute, as he was.

This happened to be one of the many drug smugglers from Colombia that were trying to get in drugs for the cartel. It is unknown exactly what cartel is in this case, but many people have speculated this was Pablo Escobar’s cocaine.

This was only a small fraction of his arsenal, which also included night vision goggles, multiple firearms, and approximately $14 million in cocaine. The old gentleman phoned the police – as you well might in this situation – who recognized the body as one Andrew C. Thornton II, a former paratrooper, narcotics officer, and lawyer who merged these unusual skillsets when he became a parachuting drug courier for a network known as “The Company”.

Thornton, who had gotten a Purple Heart after being injured while serving in the Dominican Republic during a revolution, had set his jet on autopilot before jumping out, and was planning to hand up the cocaine once he arrived safely in Kentucky. He slid to the earth when the jet crashed 96.5 kilometers (60 miles) distant.

Death of Andrew C. Thornton II

It’s unclear whether his parachute failed to release or he waited too long. His pals claimed that he enjoyed the game of waiting as long as he could before opening it. You don’t get into drug smuggling parachuting at night because you’re afraid of danger.

Police on the morning of September 11, 1985 where the body of Andrew Carter Thornton II was discovered (Source: Muckrock)

On September 11, 1985, ACT II’s body was discovered with dried blood streaming from his mouth, wearing khaki-colored pants, black gloves, and a Body Armour “point-blank type” bullet-proof vest. ACT II was carrying a Browning 9mm automatic weapon, a.22 caliber Derringer, night goggles, name and code books, hundreds of dollars in cash, and six Krugerrands.

The 35 one-kilogram packets of cocaine were the most visible pieces of evidence at the site. An autopsy found that he died 6 to 8 hours earlier, in the same location where his body was located. The Macon County Sheriff’s office quickly told the police that a wrecked Cessna 404 had been discovered nearby, with “no signs of either dead or survivors.” The plane was linked to ACT II, and his death was deemed an accident.

CIA and FBI agents were actually investigating a corrupt officer who was smuggling drugs into the US and it seems that he ended up raining from the sky. Since that day, the story of Thornton’s death was remembered as “the man who fell from the sky“.

Bear discovers 77 pounds of cocaine

Three months later, a 79.4-kilogram (175-pound) black bear was recovered in Georgia’s Chattahoochee National Forest, near where the plane was discovered, surrounded by 40 opened plastic packets containing traces of cocaine. Despite its size, the bear was no match for the 31.8 kilos (70 pounds) of cocaine contained in the packages, and it died of an overdose.

Considering the state of the bear’s insides, the outside appeared to be in good condition. This is where Pablo EskoBear’s story took an unusual turn. The body was stuffed by the examiner. It was then relocated to the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area’s visitor center.

The Cocaine Bear, now shown at Kentucky for Kentucky Fun Mall (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Kentucky eventually located the bear for Kentucky, who explained its origins, and it was happily returned to Kentucky in 2016, where travelers may view it at the Kentucky Fun Mall in north Lexington.

As far as the accuracy of the story compared to the movie, it is obvious that the movie has changed or even added many parts which did not occur within the real story in order to dramatize and make it more entertaining for viewers. The bear did not end up going on a rampage, killing and destroying, but simply went on the most major overdose in drug use history.

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