July 24, 2000
Volume 52, No. 38
Vandalism won't delay UA shuttle
By Michael Terrazas
A construction crane belonging to a subcontractor on one of the University's capital projects suffered about $200,000 worth of damage after being "stolen" and vandalized on July 9, according to Capital Program Manager Hector Morales.
The crane was being used to build the bridge for the shuttle road from the soon-to-open University Apartments parking deck. It was positioned close to the CSX railroad tracks behind Turman Residential Center, and Morales said either late in the evening of July 9 (a Sunday) or very early the next morning, someone started the crane up and took it for a ride.
"It's a mobile crane that has tracks on it like a tank," Morales said. "Full throttle means about four miles an hour."
Morales said the crane appeared to have hit the earthen embankment and tilted, causing the enormous boom overhead to bend backwards and fall across the railroad tracks. The steel boom connected both rails of the tracks, which automatically sent a signal to CSX's headquarters in Jacksonville, Fla. CSX contacted the DeKalb police, which then contacted the Emory police, which then contacted Morales.
"We all got there about 2, 3 in the morning," Morales said. "We had to bring another crane from another job site to lift the boom off the tracks, so about 8 a.m. we were able to do that. At that time the DeKalb police came back and did a crime scene investigation, took fingerprints, to see if they can find the [perpetrators]."
Lt. Hugh Howard of the Emory Police Department said the offenders are most likely teenagers, and the investigation has yielded no leads yet. "It's one of those things where we're waiting to hear somebody brag," he said. He added that charge for the crime would probably be first-degree criminal damage to property.
The crane's boom was destroyed by its collapse, accounting for most of the $200,000 in damage, according to Morales. It is insured by C.W. Matthews Contracting Co., a subcontractor of principal UA contractor Turner Construction. Morales said the incident will not result in any lost time on the UA project and expects both the deck and the shuttle road to be completed by early October.
Vandals have not been Morales' only worry on the project, however. During the week following the crane incident, he said the DeKalb Fire Department had to be called on July 12 and 14 because of gas leaks on a construction site, first at the UA site and then close to Turman. Some people were evacuated from the areas because of the leaks.
"They were capped within the hour," Morales said. "The problem with the gas lines is nobody really knows where they are, so it's kind of a crapshoot when you put your shovel down. [The lines] have been out there since the 1950s, and no one has any good records, not even Atlanta Gas Light Co."