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Signal Wire Taken From Local Railroad, Man & Woman Charged

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

Mary Robb Jackson Mary Robb Jackson
Mary Robb Jackson joined KDKA-TV as a general assignment reporter in...
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SLIPPERY ROCK TOWNSHIP (KDKA) — More than 900 feet of copper railroad signal wire was stolen above Canadian National tracks near McCandless Road in Slippery Rock.

“The railroad notified us that they’ve been having the problem,” says State Trooper Chris Birckbichler.

Both 20-year-old Nicole Watterson and her boyfriend, Zachary Atwell of Harrisville are charged with the theft.

“The wire is live at the time. I believe it carries 400-volts,” Birckbichler says. “They were very lucky in removing the wire.”

The crime is not just inconvenience. It also puts trains and people at risk.

Green wiring is used to alert train engineers that another train is on the same track and for controlling track switches.

“According to the railroad police, it’s not unreasonable that a couple of trains could come together as a result of this,” Birckbichler says.

Copper currently goes for $4.33 per pound on the scrap metal market. 10 years ago, that same pound went for $.60 cents per pound.

“It’s not the first time it’s happened here in Butler County,” Birckbichler says.

Before selling for scrap, the rubber insulation is burned off of the copper wire and sold clean. It’s typically sold for drug money.

“This was to supply a drug habit,” Birckbichler says.

At this time, the copper wire has been recovered.

Nicole Watterson has been charged with criminal conspiracy and receiving stolen property.

Zachary Atwell remains in the Butler County Jail additionally charged with risking a catastrophe with good reason.

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