Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

July 26, 2013

Vandals damage heavy equipment in Mercer

by BILL ARCHER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

GOODWILL — A Mercer County sheriff’s deputy was called out early Thursday morning to investigate what was initially reported as the theft of a bulldozer, but was later determined to be a destruction of property case involving two pieces of heavy equipment used in the Reclamation of Bat Gates Project in Flipping Hollow.

“There are some old mines up there that are protected as a sanctuary for bats,” Deputy D.A. Furches of the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department said. “It appears as though someone was up riding on the trail up there, spotted the heavy equipment and decided to see if they could get it going.”

Furches said that a crew with the Green Mountain Co., based in Charleston has been reclaiming bat gates on caves in the area. “They use PVC pipes to block the entries to the caves so people can’t get in there, but with enough space for the bats to get inside,” Furches said.

“I had never been in that part of the county before,” he said. “It’s all the way up Goodwill Hollow, and if you took the trail on up it would bring you out at Windmill Gap. At the place where they were working, they had about an acre cleared.”

Furches said that a person or persons unknown tore the ignition wires out of Komatsu excavator, got it running, tore up some of the bat gates, damaged 4 pieces of PVC pipe and dug several holes in the area where the Green Mountain crew was working. “It happened sometime between 7 p.m. (Wednesday) night and (Thursday) morning at 6 a.m.,” Furches said.

Along with damaging the ignition wires in the excavator, Furches said that the person or persons unknown also damaged the ignition wiring in a Terex articulated truck that was also parked at the work site, but he said they apparently did not get the truck running.

“The damage to the excavator ignition wiring is an estimated $3,000 and the damage to the Terex truck wiring is also about $3,000,” Furches said.

Goodwill is an unincorporated community near Montcalm. Furches said he was not aware of the Reclamation of Bat Gates project in that part of the county prior to visiting the site on Thursday. He said the case remains under investigation.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com