An MTA employee accused of stealing welding equipment - and taking out power lines in the process - is expected to be arraigned Wednesday on Long Island.
Nassau County police say 51-year-old Joel Grassman drove a stolen bucket truck, with its boom up, along the streets of Elmont, bringing power lines and poles down in his wake. He also allegedly stole several pieces of welding gear.
Some Elmont residents were jolted awake early Tuesday morning by the sound of the truck.
Several residents on E Street said they awoke to what they thought was a tornado.
“Around about 4 we heard this big sound,” resident Geoffrey Blackwood said. “We came out, and we saw the wires are down and the trees were down.”
His neighbor, Emily Mason, said she was so scared she couldn’t move. “I thought it was like, some world-ending thing because of the noise that it made that I have never heard in my life,” she said. “And the explosion, and the lights, and then the power just completely dying.”
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said Grassman has worked for the MTA for nearly 24 years.
Mark Gross with the Long Island Power Authority said the damage from the incident was “pretty extensive,” noting that some 6,100 customers were without power early Tuesday morning. By evening, about 200 were still in the dark. He said the truck pulled down a dozen poles along several blocks and that primary wires as well as transmission lines were knocked down.
Gross said most customers would have their power back by the end of the day, but cautioned that some may be without power for longer since some meters were damaged.
Elmont resident Sabrina Gardner said the damage on her block is worse than it was during Sandy. “All I have to say is this guy was a tornado when he came through here,” she said.
(Photo: Residents on E Street in Elmont watch as crews work to restore power in the Long Island neighborhood. Annmarie Fertoli/WNYC)