Caught red handed in Freshwater
Two men charged with copper theft and chopping down utility poles
Two males from the Freshwater area appeared in Placentia Provincial Court Monday, May 12 to face charges of theft under $5,000 and mischief over $5,000.
Michael Garfield Forward, 34, from Freshwater and Thomas William O’Reilly, 36, from St. John’s ( formerly Freshwater) face the charges after cutting down four red pine utility poles and attempting to steal copper wire on Sunday morning, May 11.
The pair was arrested after Const. Frederick Paquet of the Placentia RCMP caught them in the act.
Placentia and Whitbourne RCMP were notified of a utility pole that had been chopped down just after 10:30 a.m. After Paquet searched the area, more hewed poles were found.
One of the men was standing at the bottom of a pole holding wire, while the other was on the pole, which had been cut down, chopping wires. The pole was stuck on some trees at a “30 to 40 degree angle,” said RCMP Const. Tony Seaward.
The accused were found with a chainsaw, hacksaw and axe in their possession.
About 10 grams of marijuana was found on the pole, leading to a charge of civil possession for Forward.
One of the poles that had been cut down had a transformer attached to it, leading to the fluid inside leaking into the soil.
A cleanup crew was onsite May 12 to decontaminate the area.
Newfoundland Power has been replacing poles in the community, so there was no power to the ones affected. They were going to be taken down at a later date.
Although the estimate of damage was not available, a spokesperson for Newfoundland Power did confirm it costs an average of $1,700 to erect a utility pole in this province.
Forward and O’Reilly will return to Placentia court July 23.
Four utility poles were cut down in Freshwater May 11 during copper theft.