School officials peg Riverhead bus damages at $70,000

PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | District mechanic Kurt Maas uses spray paint and graffiti remover to clean a vandalized school bus. Police said three teens have been arrested in the incident.

Last week’s vandalism of more than 40 Riverhead school buses will cost the district nearly $70,000, according to a preliminary estimate by the district officials.

The vandals broke into the district’s bus barn late Thursday night and sprayed fire extinguishers inside the buses, painted graffiti, cut stop sign wires on about five of the vehicles and cut a brake line on one of the buses, officials said.

“So far we are estimating about $69,000 in damages, but we are waiting for additional information before that figure is finalized,” superintendent Nancy Carney said in an email.

Ms. Carney said bus drivers, district employees, and a professional cleaning crew sent by the district’s insurance company, spent the weekend scrubbing the buses clean.

“The bottom line is that the entire episode will be very expensive both in terms of dollar value but also in terms of manpower,” she said, and praised the employees’ fast response early Friday morning to get enough buses ready for the morning school runs.

Ms. Carney said that while one brake line was cut on a bus, the district had “multiple safety systems in place” to make sure no students or drivers were ever in danger.

Three teenagers, Sergio Gonzalez, 18, of Flanders, Terrance Pertillar, 19, and Khalil Pertillar, 17, were arrested by Riverhead police in connection with the incident. Police said the incident is still under investigation and that there may be more arrests in the case.

Terrance and Khalil Pertillar were arrested early Friday morning near the high school, police said, while Mr. Gonzalez was arrested about 12 p.m. Friday after he tried to flee from police near County Route 58.

Terrance and Khalil Pertillar were arraigned Friday in Riverhead Justice Court, Lt. Lessard said. The court set $5,000 bail for Terrance and $1,000 bail for Khalil, he said.

This was not Terrance Pertillar’s first run-in with police. Mr. Pertillar was arrested last September after he was allegedly caught stealing car stereos from a Kroemer Avenue junkyard, said police Det. Dixon Palmer. Mr. Pertillar faces possession of stolen property, possession of burglar’s tools, and criminal trespassing charges in that incident, Det. Palmer said.

Mr. Gonzalez was previously arrested for petit larceny last November but the charge are expected to be dismissed, according to a Riverhead Justice Court official.

The three teenagers, all students at Riverhead High School, will also face disciplinary hearings from the school in addition to the legal charges, Ms. Carney said.

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