Machine crashes over cliff

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For the second week in a row, police say someone damaged equipment at a remote Clearfield County coal mine.

Police say they’re investigating two different incidents of criminal mischief at River Hill Coal Company and that they believe the most recent one happened over the weekend.

Employees say the vandal had to drive from the tipple on Tipple Road about a mile over a back mining road before sending the machine off a cliff.

Police say someone put a rock on the gas pedal. A local coal booster says he got an urgent call from the company owner on Monday.

“He called me about 11:00 in the morning and they probably discovered it say about 7:00 or so, but probably the damage he said, it’s very extensive,” says Quehanna Indusrial Deevlopment Corp. President Ray Savel.

Police say someone actually broke into a garage at the tipple, starting the front-end loader that had a key inside, and using it to damage five other machines before crashing it about 200 feet to the bottom.

The prior weekend, around Feb. 26 to Feb. 29, police say somebody took fire extinguishers from the vehicles at the same mine off Pottersdale Road, and set them off inside the vehicles.

“I hope that they catch the people who’s doing this because it’s really a shame for someone to go in and destroy someone else’s property like they’ve been doing,” says area resident Alicia Lumadue.

“That’s damage to River Hill Company. I mean, you can’t be doing stuff like that,” says area resident Paul Rolley.

Company owner Harry Hanchar says he’s offering a $1,000 reward for information in this case.

He says 80 workers were fired last August, and operations here near Karthaus shut down, although they still have about 15 employees who are mostly working near Madera.

Hanchar says demand for coal is low, but the machines are still valuable.

One resident remembers houses and a park in the area that’s now strip-mined, and dozens of workers on the job.

“I worked there. My dad worked there, actually retired from there, and it was a good livelihood at one time,” says area resident Tom Luzier.

“So many people in this world anymore that just have to do destructive things to be happy, but why they do it, I don’t know and it’s a shame,” says Savel.

State police say the most recent incident caused an estimated $100,000 in damage.

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