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Police investigate string of copper wire thefts at West Penn Power substation, nearby coal facility |

Police investigate string of copper wire thefts at West Penn Power substation, nearby coal facility

A burglar likely risked death or serious injury when stealing copper wire from a West Penn Power electric substation and a C&D Coal building in Derry Township, a utility company spokesman said Monday.

Stealing electrical ground wire from the energized substation “could have badly injured the perpetrators or killed them,” said Todd Meyers, a spokesman for the Greensburg-based West Penn Power Co.

An electric surge could have caused serious injury to someone cutting wires with a tool, Meyers said.

State police are investigating the theft. An initial burglary occurred 12:15 a.m. Jan. 12, when someone broke locks to the substation, disconnected the power and removed copper ground wire. The substation is adjacent to the C&D Coal building at 200 Chestnut Ridge.

A second burglary occurred sometime before Jan. 19, when more wires were cut along with conduit from utility poles containing large copper wire. A large hole was cut in a 16-foot-by-16-foot C&D Coal building, formerly owned by Kennametal Inc. Panels from the back of the metal-clad switch gears that power the business were removed and wires were cut.

A third burglary occurred between Jan. 19 and 11:35 a.m. Jan. 20, when cables from behind the gears were removed by pulling them through the underground conduit to where the conduit was cut at the utility poles.

A C&D Coal spokesman could not be reached for comment.

West Penn Power estimated damage to its substation at between $500 and $600, Meyers said. No residential customers were affected by the lines being cut, he said.

In addition to the burglar risking death, Meyers said the safety of West Penn Power crews could have been compromised.

“Our guys should not have to be endangered,” because of the theft of the ground wire, Meyers said.

Police are asking anyone with information about the thefts to contact Trooper David Vinkler at 724-832-3288.

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-5252 or

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