A GANG of youths have been blamed for throwing a petrol bomb which caused more than £200,000 worth of damage at a bus station.
Four buses were destroyed and two badly damaged in the incident at the Newtownabbey depot at about 5am on Sunday, May 2.
Three fire crews spent four hours damping down the blaze at Glenville Road.
Mark Beresford of the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service said: “When we got to the scene there was a really fierce fire with four buses alight and the fire was threatening to spread. We believe it was started by a petrol bomb thrown over the fence. There was no sign of forced entry. We will be looking at CCTV, but three youths were spotted acting suspiciously before the fire.”
The assistant group commander said he found the incident “depressing”.
“This is indicative of society at the moment. It is most depressing that people want to ruin something so fundamental as transport,” he said.
“People want to destroy anything that smacks of authority. Of course I wish we didn’t have to get called out to these sorts of reports. We have enough work dealing with accidental fires.”
A police spokesman confirmed the blaze was being treated as suspicious.
A Translink spokeswoman estimated the cost of the damage at £200,000. “We condemn this mindless act of vandalism and will be working closely with the PSNI to investigate this incident.”
She said the company operated a cash reward scheme offering up to £1,000 to anyone “who is prepared to give evidence leading to a successful prosecution”.
Local DUP Alderman Nigel Hamilton said: “Those who carry out this wanton destruction are a blight on our community. They wreck and ruin and we are left to pick up the pieces and and pay the price of their rampage.
“I am demanding immediate action from the police and Newtownabbey Borough Council, after having visited the depot this morning and seen for myself what has been done by these criminals.
“I will be calling upon our District Policing Partnership manager Campbell Dixon to set up a meeting with senior Translink staff, PSNI Commander Paula Hillman and the council's chief executive to discuss options on a way forward which will put an end to this carnage.”
North Belfast Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly said: “I am calling for the PSNI to respond immediately to bring these criminals before the courts and prevent any further of these anti-community attacks.
“It is my understanding that Translink are making every effort to increase the security of this depot to prevent further damage to our public transport.
“I must commend the Fire and Rescue Service for their prompt response that prevented the fire spreading to other buses. Sinn Fein and the community of north Belfast only last week joined with the emergency services to appeal for anti-community attacks to end.
“Attacks on our public services are attacks on our community. We are standing up to these thugs that are attempting to destroy the fabric of the society that we are working so hard together to build.”
SDLP Newtownabbey Councillor Noreen McClelland said: “This is a deplorable act of wanton destruction. It is inconceivable as to why anyone would want to destroy these buses.
“The people of Whiteabbey are disgusted at this attack on their community. Not only may services be affected as a result of this vandalism butas ratepayers, the ordinary man and woman on the street will have to foot the bill for the replacement of the vehicles.
“I appeal to anyone who has any information whatsoever regarding this incident to bring it to the police. Those responsible must be caught and punished for this despicable act.''
Newtownabbey Alliance Councillor Billy Webb said: “This is the second attack on the premises but this time is more sinister.
“The loss of these buses may lead to a lack of service to school transport and put pressure on Translink to consider the use of alternative premises, causing a loss of local employment.
“I call on anyone with information which might bring those responsible being apprehended to contact the PSNI.”