Thieves pump diesel from school bus, steal chains

March 7, 2012

Fuel and chains were stolen from a Hood River County School District bus overnight Feb. 28.

Transportation Department employees reported the loss of $750 in diesel and chains. A total of 85 gallons was drained from the fuel tank, apparently by a pumping system, according to mechanic Don Benefield.

The bus had an electrical failure while being driven on Highway 35 at about 9 p.m. Wednesday and transportation supervisor Cindy Sim said she instructed the driver to leave the bus there.

"We went up this morning to recover it and found it had been gone through," Benefield said.

"It's not so much the loss as the burden," Benefield said. "With the fuel drained, you've got to prime the system again. The bus can't run when it's been drained."

Benefield said he had to do so at the scene, and then was able to drive it back to the transportation facility in Odell. He said the fuel had been either siphoned or pumped from the tank aboard the 40-passenger bus.

"That's what's exasperating to me, is I don't know how they would have done it without a pump or drum tanks on the back of a truck," he said.

Benefield has been with the district for a year, but he said he asked long-term mechanics and they had no recollection of anyone siphoning gas from a school bus.

The bus holds 90 gallons of fuel, and had only been driven 30 miles since filling, according to Benefield.

Det. Matt English of the Hood River County Sheriff's Department said the case is under investigation.

The bright side of the crime might be that the hatch holding the tire chains was unlocked, according to Sim.

"I did not instruct the driver to lock the hatch, which is probably a good thing because they would have messed up the lock and caused even worse damage. It's a 'Catch 22' kind of thing," Sim said.

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