Thousands of Elmont and surrounding-area residents woke up Tuesday with no power, as a stolen MTA bucket truck plowed through streets, knocking down trees, power lines, poles and crashing into cars at about 4 a.m.
The driver of the truck, an MTA worker, was identified as Joel Grasman, 51, of Elmont. Police said that Grasman, an employee for more than 20 years, had taken the truck from a transit facility in Queens to transport welding equipment.
According to police, Grasman drove the truck along Meacham Avenue and inside streets, knocking down what Long Island Power Authority officials said were about 12 utility poles. The damage was caused when Grasman raised the truck's bucket arm or boom, snaring and pulling down wires as he drove along.
Mark Gross, a LIPA spokesman, told the Herald that about 6,100 residents over a one-mile stretch were without power initially. Workers at the scene were estimating millions of dollars in damage.
As of 3 p.m. Tuesday, Gross said that about 250 customers were still without power and LIPA hoped to have all residents restored by Wednesday at the latest.
“We hope to have most everyone back by today,” Gross said on Tuesday, “but we may have some single customers tomorrow. Those customers may need to have an electrician come to their home before we do if they had electrical boxes ripped out.”
Residents were angry.
“This person was insidious,” Elmont resident Judith A. Senning told the Herald. “What was going through his head? I thought it was someone either drunk or stoned, but it also could be a terrorist attack. I mean, you see these utility poles like broken toothpicks outside, you start to panic.”
Another Elmont resident, Dolores Lucardi, described the driver as a “screwball” who hurt a lot of families.
Tuesday morning, exit 15 Corona Avenue off the Southern State Parkway was closed due to traffic and Dutch Broadway, Meacham Avenue and North Fletcher were closed due to downed power lines.
Police say Grasman fled the scene and pulled over near the Southern State Parkway, where he exited the truck and ran. Police chased him and apprehended him. He is charged with second-degree criminal possession of stolen property, third-degree criminal possession of stolen property, first-degree reckless endangerment, first-degree criminal tampering and second-degree criminal mischief He was to be arraigned on Wednesday in First District Court.