An act of vandalism caused a disruption of telephone service throughout numerous neighborhoods in Coral Bay from March 14 to 15.
A 600-pair cable box, located at the intersection of Centerline Road and South Shore Road, was intentionally set on fire, shutting off service for about 400 customers, according to Janette Millen Young, spokesperson for Innovative Telephone.
Intentional Fire Suspected
It wasnt a normal fire; it is suspicious, Millen-Young said. Because nothing has been determined, it would be premature to say what caused the fire at this time. We arent making any assumptions.
The guys in the field, though, said that the fire couldnt have just happened, the Innovative spokesperson continued.
Someone would have had to intentionally set this. It was specifically that box that was targeted.
The fire was set sometime between 9:30 p.m. on Monday, March 13, and 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday, March 14, according to V.I. Police Department spokesperson Sgt. Thomas Hannah, who added that the VIPD was alerted at 11:10 a.m. on March 14.
Phones Out for 24 Hours
Innovative Telephone customers in East End, Upper Carolina, Estate Emmaus and Hansen Bay were without service for about 24 hours before the cables were repaired on Wednesday morning, March 15.
The VIPD Coral Bay Substation, the Coral Bay Fire Station and the Guy Benjamin School were also affected, but were the first customers repaired, Young explained.
The telephone company made repairing the lines a priority, the Innovative spokesperson added.
Employees from St. Thomas who dont normally work on St. John went over and assisted in the repairs, Young said. This was a priority because people out there are isolated and need their phone service.
The damage to the cable box was intentional, according to Sgt. Hannah.
Someone poured some type of accelerant on the box and set it on fire, the VIPD spokesperson said. They also took some cutting instrument and cut the cables as well.
Listed as Destruction of Property
The incident is currently listed as a destruction of property until there is a determination about whether the fire was arson, Sgt. Hannah explained.
It is under investigation by the VIPDs investigative bureau, he said. The V.I. Fire Depart-ment was also notified, so the fire marshall will take a look. They will make a determination about arson, and then we will proceed accordingly.
It hints at being an arson, but it is a suspicious fire until it is confirmed, Hannah added.
The St. John Fire Department was not called to the fire, according to V.I. Deputy Fire Chief Brian Chapman.
We werent called that night, he said. We were notified of it after the fact, but its more of an issue for the police department. Community Is Real Victim
Although Innovative was affected, the real victims of the vandalism are the 400 customers who were without telephone service, explained Young.
It cost the company money, yes, but it did a bigger disservice to the customers for this to be done, she said. If people out in these areas had an emergency situation, it could have seriously hampered response.
Its one thing for one phone to be down, but whole neighborhoods were down, Young continued. Someone who needed help then, wouldnt even have been able to use a neighbors phone.
Anyone with information about the cable box fire should call the VIPD at 693-8880 or 774-1111.