Forest Service official: Juvenile vandals did almost $15K in damage

HUDSON, TX (KTRE) - Texas A&M Forest Service officials are mulling what they should do with the government-surplus truck damaged when two juvenile suspects took it on a joy ride and crashed it into a trailer parked at a facility located behind Hudson ISD's main campus on April 23.

In all, the juvenile suspects did $14,825 worth of damage to government-surplus vehicles and a trailer parked at the facility. However, the truck the juveniles wrecked received the most damage; the cost of fixing it was estimated at $5,065.

"The repair cost of $5,000 is rather substantial," said Kelly Scott, a staff forester with the Forest Service. "We would also be asking a VFD to receive a vehicle that has been involved in an accident and had major work done."

The vehicles are government surplus, Scott said in a previous story. He explained government agencies like the military loan the trucks to the Texas A&M Forest Service, and that agency, in turn, loans the vehicles to fire departments all over the state.

"Once on loan, the property must be maintained by the fire department or emergency response cooperator as long as they have it in their possession," Scott said. "When the department no longer has need of the property, it must be re-issued to another department or returned to TFS for disposal.

Scott said the Department of Defense decides how many and which types of vehicles are no longer needed for military use. After the DoD make them available at military bases across the country, they are acquired by state agencies like the Texas A&M Forest Service to be used for firefighting and emergency response.

"TFS acquires and transports back to Texas as many usable vehicles as possible to be assessed and reassigned to VFDs," Scott said.

Fire departments that receive the Texas A&M Forest Service vehicles are required to paint them non-military colors, turn them into emergency response vehicles (fire trucks), get insurance on them, and keep them in operation for at least a year.

"Meeting these obligations with consideration to the damage inflicted on the truck could be problematic to a department," Scott said. "With that in mind, we have asked the US Forest Service for authorization to dispose of the truck. According to the US Forest Service, this is also the first piece of FFP property that has had been involved in a situation like this. Not a program first we are happy to be dealing with."

According to Angelina County Sheriff Greg Sanches, it looked like the three boys came through the Hudson ISD softball fields before they entered the Texas A&M Forest Service facility around 9:30 p.m. Tuesday. While they were there, the three juvenile suspects used an unknown object to break windshields, side glasses, or headlights on at least 12 Forest Service fire vehicles, doing about $9,000 worth of damage in the process.

The boys climbed into three of the vehicles and drove them around. They wrecked one Forest Service vehicle by driving it under a trailer that had also been parked at the facility. The damage to the trailer was estimated at $760, according to Scott.

Sometime during the evening, the juvenile suspects also broke into a concession stand at the Hudson ISD softball fields and vandalized a nearby abandoned house. Sanches said the boys left some of the stolen candy at the house.

In a previous story, Scott said no one was aware of the damage until about 5 a.m. the next morning, when a truck driver pulled into the facility to load some of the fire vehicles onto a trailer to haul them to a fire department in central Texas.

Angelina County Sheriff's Office deputies arrested two of the juvenile suspects on April 24. The two boys were processed and released into the custody of their parents. Lt. Pete Maskunas said authorities have the name of the third suspect, but he hasn't been arrested. Maskunas said ACSO investigators have turned the case over to the Texas Youth Commission.

Copyright 2013 KTRE. All rights reserved.