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Roller, roller in the river

Investigators blame vandals for dunking equipment

Investigators blame vandals for dunking equipment

September 21, 2005|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

DOWNSVILLE

tiffanya@herald-mail.com

A 5-ton roller dangled from a crane like a puppet on strings when park rangers at the C&O Canal National Historical Park extracted it from the Potomac River late Tuesday morning.

Investigators think the roller was dumped near Dam No. 4 over the weekend by vandals who stole it from a nearby towpath, park ranger Martin Gallery said.

He said the vandals hot-wired the roller's engine after prying open a metal box that secured the locked ignition. The roller was driven a mile up the towpath before being dumped into the water, he said.

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"I didn't even know that was possible for this kind of equipment," Gallery said.

Park spokeswoman Kathy Sholl said park rangers learned of the incident Sunday after a park patron noticed the roller in the water.

In order to accommodate the 40-ton crane needed to lift the roller, park rangers on Monday had to install four steel posts along the path, park civil engineer Dan Copenhaver said.

"This thing was designed for mules, not cranes," Copenhaver said.

On Tuesday, a crew of park rangers, a police diver and a crane operator lifted the machinery from the river bottom. The roller sat in about 10 feet of water.

Copenhaver said he made arrangements with Allegheny Power, which has a station at Dam 4, to divert river water while park rangers removed the roller.

Diverting the water lowered the river level by about a foot, Copenhaver said. He said the water levels would be raised after the crew removed the roller.

It took the crew about an hour to get the roller out of the river. The soggy machine was placed onto a flatbed truck and taken to a maintenance shop where park officials will evaluate the damage.

Sholl said park workers used the roller to keep the towpath flat.

Park workers left the equipment on the path Friday in order to continue work throughout the week, Gallery said.

He said it is common for park workers to leave rollers at work sites because the equipment is bulky and difficult to transport.

"You leave them in remote areas and you think people won't vandalize," he said.

Gallery said work equipment will be taken back to the maintenance building in the future.

Copenhaver said the Ingersoll-Rand 40D Road Resurfacing Roller cost around $4,400 when it was purchased in 1991, but would cost around $60,000 to replace.

The crane, which came from Columbia, Md., cost the park about $1,200 to rent, he said.

Sholl said there is a reward for information that leads to an arrest and conviction. The C&O Canal has asked that people with information call 301-714-2235.

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