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FBI offers $40,000 reward for info on trestle fire

(The following article by Torsten Ove was posted on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette website on December 22.)

PITTSBURGH -- The FBI yesterday announced a $40,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of the arsonist who set a fire that destroyed a Butler County train trestle in May, causing an estimated $8 million in damage and lost business to the railroad and three area companies that rely on the rail line.

State police ruled the fire an arson eight days after the blaze, which quickly engulfed the 624-foot Divener Trestle in Donegal.

The bridge, a wooden structure owned by the Buffalo & Pittsburgh Railroad that predated the Civil War, went up in flames just 15 minutes after a train carrying sulphuric acid crossed it.

"That would have been a disaster. That could have wiped out that town," said Ray Morrow, head of the Pittsburgh FBI office.

Another train was some 30 minutes away from crossing the span.

The railroad and three companies directly impacted by the loss of the trestle put up the reward money. The FBI got involved because it has jurisdiction over crimes involving railroad lines; the agency and state police are conducting the investigation.

The railroad had to pay about $2.7 million to replace the bridge.

While the bridge was down, three industrial plants in northern Butler County suffered huge financial hardships.

Indspec Chemical Corp. and Sonneborn Inc., both chemical companies in Petrolia, and Penreco, a supply company in Karns City, estimated the loss of rail access cost them a total of $5.3 million because of disruption of shipments to and from their facilities.

The rail line, a 17-mile link from the city of Butler along Route 68, runs directly into two of the plants.

Anyone with information is asked to call the FBI at 412-432-4000.

Friday, December 22, 2006

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