Contract workers got a jarring surprise Wednesday afternoon at the BP Whiting Refinery when they encountered a shipment crate that contained two dead monkeys.

BP Whiting Refinery spokesman Brad Etlin said a couple of contractors told plant security about the dead animals they found in what was supposed to contain equipment for the refinery's ongoing modernization project. He declined to speculate on what was found.

Etlin said the company considered the report serious and continued to investigate hours after it was made. About 5:45 p.m. Wednesday, he said the company still was gathering information and would comply with the regulations necessary as the situation develops. It also wasn't clear Wednesday what other health or public safety agencies would be involved.

Etlin said normal refinery operations have not been impacted.

Information on the identity of the crate supplier or equipment supplier was not available Wednesday, Etlin said. The company is investigating how long the equipment was stored before it was brought to the refinery.

"We have no reason to believe any workers on site are at risk and certainly not the broader community," Etlin said.

A source who was working at the refinery Wednesday said BP security officers responded to the incident about 2 p.m. and immediately worked to evacuate the area. The worker said monkeys were inside equipment in the crate, but they appeared to be less than 2 feet tall. He said the crate may have been stored at a warehouse for an extended period of time prior to being opened.

The worker said since the cargo arrived in Northwest Indiana from overseas, it should have received a more rigorous inspection. The worker also was concerned about potential health risks from the dead animals.