RIVERDALE — A video of what the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals says is a live cow being dropped several feet from a tractor into a dump truck Monday has prompted a letter to police from the group, asking for a criminal investigation into the incident.

The incident was part of a cleanup of an I-84 on-ramp in Riverdale after a semitrailer tipped onto its side Monday morning, killing dozens of cows. It shows the a cow moving around before it's dropped from a large front loader bucket into the back of a dump truck.

The semitrailer was carrying about 80 cows, and roughly 70 of them died in the wreck, according to Utah Department of Transportation spokesman John Gleason. The on-ramp was closed for several hours, and motorists on I-15 below the ramp experienced delays for much of the day.

PETA sent its letter to the Weber County Sheriff's Office, describing the treatment of the cow as "wholly unjustifiable."

"Cows suffer every time they're packed into a crowded truck bound for slaughter, but the animals on this truck endured especially terrifying, painful deaths," Stephanie Bell, said in a separate statement Friday. "PETA is calling for a full investigation and charges as warranted against the workers who evidently dropped a living, struggling animal into a dump truck like a piece of garbage."

The sheriff's office said Friday it is not involved in the investigation and referred inquiries from both PETA and reporters to the Utah Highway Patrol. A spokesman for UHP said the cattle company was primarily responsible for clearing all of the animals from the scene.

"Our primary responsibility was public safety and traffic control, making sure nobody was entering the scene and nobody was hurting themselves approaching the scene," trooper Lawrence Hopper said.

A woman with Hanson Trucking, with locations in Columbia Falls, Montana, and Hansen, Idaho, confirmed that a company truck was involved in Monday's crash. She declined to comment on the story Friday.

Gleason called the crash an awful situation. He said he doesn't know all the details, but he doesn't believe the live cow would be discarded on purpose.

"Some of the animals that may have been identified as being deceased (may not have been). It turned out that at least one in the video had not been deceased," he said, adding that he doesn't know any specifics about why the cow was handled the way it was. "I can't imagine that someone would purposely (discard a live animal)."

Gleason echoed Hopper's statement that Hanson Trucking was responsible for clearing away the animals. The company was required to call out cattle wranglers and large animal veterinarians, he said.

UDOT assisted highway patrol troopers at the scene of the crash, Gleason said.

PETA has said it wants those responsible for the cow's fall into the dump truck to be criminally prosecuted.

The footage in question is available on Facebook.

Warning: The videos include graphic content.

Email: blockhart@deseretnews.com

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