Vandals strike Canoe

Published 4:39 pm Monday, May 16, 2011

This packer owned by the county was lucky to escape damage this weekend after vandals drove it into the creek next to the bridge on Cowpen Creek Road in Canoe.|Photo by Chandler Myers

Investigators with the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office are searching for the vandals responsible for damaging equipment being used to repair the bridge on Cowpen Creek Road over the weekend.

The damage, which was minimal, did not delay the timetable for when the bridge is expected to be back in commission, according to Escambia County Commissioner Brandon Smith.

“Other than what work was delayed this morning, everything is back to normal, and it is still on track to open within the next week or in a week and a half,” Smith said Monday morning.

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Windows were busted out of a track hoe and a bulldozer, and a packer was driven into the creek, which the bridge is being reconstructed over.

“They did attempt to crank the bulldozer, and if they had been able to do that, then there’s no telling what kind of damage they could have done,” Smith said. “They could have damaged the bridge.”

Workers returned to the bridge, which has been out of commission since the floods of December 2009, ready to work on Monday morning and found the damaged equipment with the packer bogged down in the creek’s waters.

Despite being held up to remove the packer from the creek and the investigation by the Sheriff’s Office that included fingerprinting and checking around the neighborhood, everything was routine with the work at the Cowpen Creek Road bridge continuing.

Upon finding the equipment, the workers notified county officials as well as deputies with the Escambia County (Ala.) Sheriff’s Office and then removed the packer from the water.

Escambia County Commissioner Brandon Smith visited the scene Monday morning and was irritated to see what had taken place.

“The only thing they really damaged were the windows they knocked out of the bulldozer and the track hoe, which does not belong to the county,” Smith said. “That piece of equipment belongs to the contractors who put the bridge in. Other than driving the packer down into the creek, that was the only real damage. The main issue with it all is the danger that involved with a stunt like this. It’s a 1,000 wonders that the packer didn’t turn over on that hill and kill someone.”

The bridge is still on track to open before the end of the month.

As for what Smith would like for the vandals to know, he said he just wants them to understand that it’s not just the county they are hurting, but residents as well.

“I’d just like for them to know that they are holding up progress on a project that has been needed for a long time,” he said. “Another thing is that they are digging into the taxpayers’ pocketbook when they tear stuff up. It’s not fair to those people especially with how tight things are in terms of the economy.”

If anyone has any information regarding the damaged equipment on Cowpen Creek Road, they are encouraged to contact the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office at 251-867-0304.