8 stolen school buses end up at scrapyard

March 8, 2013 8:52:05 PM PST
Police are guarding what's left of eight stolen school buses at a scrap metal business after thieves allegedly took the buses and turned them into scrap metal.

The owner of the busses said that in his 40 years in the transportation business, he has never heard of a bus being stolen for scrap metal. But Friday night, a South Side salvage yard was a crime scene.

Alberto Estrella will now have to find somewhere else to sell his truck-full of scrap metal.

"My friend told me the place is open for 24 hours," Estrella said.

Not anymore.

Police say in a massive pile of twisted metal at Gonzalez Auto Parts on the West Side are the remnants of eight school buses, allegedly stolen from Sunrise Bus Company, whose name could be seen among the shards of yellow pieces.

The bus company's owner says the 40-foot-long buses were stolen overnight from the company's yard on the South Side.

They were equipped with GPS locators, which police tracked to the scrap yard nearly 20 miles away at 34th and South Lawndale.

"One guy told me about this place. But I came only for two times a long time ago," Estrella said.

Investigators are now questioning three persons of interest and a source tells ABC7 that police, while searching the property, found the scrap yard's owner hiding in an office crawl space.

"Now that I'm thinking about it, it's a strange thing," said Jessica Roque, who works nearby. "I don't know why they don't have set business hours. It's bizarre. But I'm also not surprised that this is happening right now because this, the people there have always seemed a little shady."

People who work nearby in the mostly industrial area say the current owner has run the business for about three years.

And they say large vehicles, including moving trucks, have been seen coming and going at late hours.

"The gates were never shut. I've never seen the gates shut or them closed at any point," Roque said.

The scrap metal value of a school bus could bring a couple thousand dollars. The parts, however, could be worth thousands more.