Missing Florida Mom Found Locked in Shipping Container – Universal Bizargo

 In International Shipping, Shipping Container, shipping containers, Universal Bizargo, Universal Cargo Management

A boy waits for his mother to pick him up. But she doesn’t show. She doesn’t call. No one can get a hold of her. The woman is reported missing, and the police investigate. Nothing. There’s no sign of her. Then, after she’s been missing for about three days, the story takes a weird turn. Off a busy road, next to a gas station, there’s banging heard from inside a shipping container on the property of a lawn mowing company. The banging from inside the shipping container’s door is loud enough to get the attention of a worker. When he opens the door, to his surprise, there’s a woman inside: the missing mom, Marlene Lopez.

Welcome back to Universal Bizargo.

Universal Bizargo shipping container
Universal Bizargo shipping container

Actually, only those who’ve read Universal Cargo’s blog for a long, long time are likely to have ever even heard of Universal Bizargo, let alone be welcomed back to it. It’s been seven years since we’ve published a post in our old Universal Bizargo series, in which we would share weird stories related to the international shipping industry.

Previous ones include a few about people found in shipping containers. There was a hungover man found in one, a woman who traveled the world in a shipping container, four apparently refugee men found in one, and we even once shared a story before Universal Bizargo was a thing about a cute little kitten stowaway found in a shipping container.

However, this mom found in a shipping container probably tops all those others for weirdness. That’s because there are questions around how Marlene Lopez got there. Stranger still, she didn’t even seem that upset about it when leaving the scene.

Though Lopez appeared to be okay, authorities had her taken to a hospital and checked out, with dehydration seemingly the biggest concern. As a cameraman filmed her walking to the ambulance, a reporter asked her what happened. She replied almost nonchalantly, “I don’t know. I was in one place and I––found in another.”

While she didn’t seem delirious, maybe the woman was in some kind of shock or mentally confused state. She had been locked in a shipping container for days, after all. But how did she get in there without knowing how? Did someone drug her or knock her out and put her in there or did she wander in unconsciously? Reportedly, she was dehydrated but not injured. Was she lying about not knowing what happened?

How about we shift to an easier to answer question and come back to how she got in the shipping container. Why was it locked?

The answer here seems clear. The shipping container is used for storing lawn mowers by the lawn mowing company. By his own account, the owner, Tyler Sonnenberg, locked the container on Tuesday afternoon. Putting myself in his shoes, I can imagine locking up a container of equipment, as I’d be accustomed to doing at work, without suspecting a person is hidden in the shadows inside.

“She’s been missing for three days, so some–something else is going on,” Sonnenberg said on a local TV news report. “There’s something more to the story.” And it might just be the things Sonnenberg said off camera that reveal the truth.

In the original article I read on the story, Martha McHardy reported that Sonnenberg told WKMG, the local TV station, that he’d seen Lopez walking around the area on Monday. Monday, by the way, was the same day she was reported missing. McHardy included in her article that Sonnenberg said he didn’t hear any noise coming from the shipping container on Wednesday, the day after he’d locked it. Watching the TV news spot, which I’ve included below, there’s more Sonnenberg had to say that McHardy didn’t include in her article.

Sonnenberg told to the TV reporter he thinks Lopez walked into the container herself and then passed out. The reporter then uses the language “he claims” about Sonnenberg telling her he saw a pipe and lighter inside the shipping container after Lopez left.

Drug use could explain either the woman not remembering how she got inside the shipping container turned storage unit or not wanting to tell how she ended up there. The “claim” language regarding Sonnenberg saying there was a lighter and pipe might imply that the reporter got no confirmation of the paraphernalia from the police or visual confirmation for herself. Then again…

Maybe the police didn’t find a lighter and pipe. Maybe they wouldn’t disclose that information if they had. Perhaps the reporter and WKMG are being extra cautious with language to avoid any possible defamation of Lopez. Who knows, maybe there’s even more to this bizarre story than any of us would likely guess. Luckily, it didn’t turn into a tragedy where a boy’s missing mother was never seen again. And if there is a drug problem involved, hopefully waking up in a locked shipping container will be a literal wake up call for a mother getting clean for both her own and her son’s safety.

Sonnenberg told the reporter he’s not at fault for locking the woman in the shipping container, she shouldn’t have been trespassing, and he’s now considering pressing charges. So there may be more twists to come in this Universal Bizargo story.

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