Police in Pennsylvania are scratching their heads at some resourceful—and powerful—thieves who have made off with a 50-foot-long corrugated steel bridge.
The bridge, owned by New Castle Development Corp., was tucked away in a wooded area on a private access road to an industrial park in New Castle, PA, about 60 miles north of Pittsburgh.
|Authorities thought the bridge had washed away, but cutting and torch marks told the real story.|
The span had been in place for about a century—until earlier this month, when it disappeared, probably a piece at a time.
Scrap Metal Bonanza
Authorities said the thieves had to use a blow torch to dismantle the 40-ton span, which is worth more than $100,000 as scrap metal. The 20-foot-wide bridge was made of corrugated steel, a steel web decking, and steel I-beam supports. The bridge dated to the early 1900s.
Owners initially thought the bridge had been washed away in September’s record rains. But the blowtorch marks on the grating and steel beams told a different story.
"I couldn't understand how a bridge could be gone," New Castle Development spokesman Gary Bruce told WFMJ-TV. "I thought that with the rain it got washed away."
Bruce believes the bridge was taken out in pieces over several days, between Sept. 27 and Oct. 6.
"It's unbelievable," said Bruce, whose company owns the bridge and the property. "I just wouldn't believe it."
‘Hundreds of Pounds per Foot’
The bridge was lifted completely off its foundation—no small feat, area resident Robert Obed told WTAE.
"Its old beams are probably hundreds and hundreds of pounds per foot," Obed said.
Pennsylvania State Police were searching scrap yards, to see if they could find pieces of the bridge, but had had no luck and no leads.
Unfortunately, the cost to rebuild the bridge will far exceed what the thieves will get for the scrap, said Bruce, an engineer.
"It's going to be expensive," he said.
Now You See It…
With scrap metal costs soaring, thefts of wire cable, copper pipe, gutters, manhole covers and other metals have been on the rise worldwide. But an entire bridge is a rare target.
Still, metal thefts are quite common in that area of Pennsylvania, Obed told Time magazine. In fact, the magazine said, the bridge was recently closed because of copper thefts nearby.
Thomas Claveirole / Flickr
|A 200-ton bridge in Khabarovsk, Russia was stolen in 2008, probably for scrap, authorities said.|
Although strange, the bridge theft was not unprecedented. In 2008, a 200-ton bridge disappeared in Khabarovsk, Russia, cutting off employees from a local heating plant where they worked. As in the Pennsylvania case, authorities suspected scrap-metal thieves.