Lander Restaurant Cook, Owners Find Two Men Dead In Running Car

Restaurant staffers found two men dead Saturday in a parked car in Lander that had been running all day. The restaurant owner said it appeared the car's exhaust had been leaking into the vehicle.

Clair McFarland

February 27, 20233 min read

Lander restaurant death 2 27 23
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Restaurant staffers found two men dead Saturday in a parked car in Lander that had been running all day.

A cook at the Antler restaurant in Lander first noticed the running car containing two men, ages 62 and 29, in the parking lot at 11 a.m. when he arrived for work, according to restaurant owner Sophal Thompson.   

Thompson told Cowboy State Daily that the cook paid little attention at that point, thinking he only saw one man, possibly on his phone in the car.  

When the cook hours later went outside for a cigarette break, said Thompson, he noticed that the car was still running but hadn’t moved.  

It was loud roar for such a small car, Thompson said.  

‘I Think They’re Dead’ 

The cook went to check on the man he’d seen, and discovered there were actually two men inside the car, both completely still.  

“He came back and told me, I think they’re dead,” said Thompson. The cook then got Thompson’s husband to go outside, who knocked on the window then opened the door and checked the men for pulses.   

Thompson’s husband found no pulse. 

“They were both stiff already,” she said. That was when they called 911.   

Thompson said it appeared the car’s exhaust was leaking into the vehicle. She suspected the exhaust “poisoned” both men. The police also said that was likely while they were on scene, Thompson said.   

Waiting For The Road To Open 

The Lander Police Department’s call log from Saturday calls the deaths a possible asphyxiation, but the department has turned the investigation over to the Fremont County Coroner’s office.  

Coroner Erin Ivie said she will not speak to the death circumstances until her investigation is complete. Ivie said she neither suspects foul play nor has ruled it out. She declined to give the men’s names, “pending notification of next-of-kin.”  

Ivie said the men were not father and son, and were not from this area. 

“It looks like they were traveling through,” she said.  

Thompson said the car had a Nevada license plate.  

“I think they were waiting for the road to open – and then that happened,” said Thompson.  

‘Hugged My Babies’ 

Thompson said finding the men affected her.  

“It messed me up a little,” she said. “And I hugged my babies when I got home.”  

Thompson said she feels badly for the men’s families, and imagines how she’d feel if she believed her husband was on his way home, but discovered he’d died in another state.  

“(I’d be) in shock,” she said.  

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter