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Owner of Scrapped Stolen School Buses Asks, 'What Just Happened to Me?'

By Quinn Ford | March 8, 2013 12:32pm | Updated on March 8, 2013 2:07pm

SOUTH LAWNDALE — Three people are being questioned by police after eight school buses were stolen from a lot overnight, only to be found a short time later in a salvage yard.

The buses were taken from a private storage lot in the 10100 block of South Torrence Avenue about 5 a.m. Friday, police said.

The buses belonged to Sunrise Bus Company and Charter Services, according to the company's president, Greg Bonnet.

Each school bus was equipped with GPS devices, and Bonnet said the stolen buses were tracked from the Sunrise lot to a scrap metal yard in the 3400 block of South Lawndale Avenue.

"I know the GPS showed the eight buses driving in this lot," Bonnet said just outside the scrap metal yard Friday afternoon. "And I expected to look in and see the buses lined up there."

"When I looked in and saw a big pile of yellow, I thought, 'Holy [cow]! What just happened to me?" Bonnet said.

Bonnet said squad cars were already on the scene when he arrived at the yard about 6:30 a.m. The yard, according to signs at the site, belongs to Gonzalez Auto Parts.

The buses were damaged and "in various states of disassembly," according to police. A large pile of twisted yellow metal could be seen at the site.

Bonnet said a brand new school bus usually costs between $80,000 and $85,000, but he said four of the buses that were stolen were wheelchair accessible, which are more expensive.

Bonnet said if he had to guess, he would say the stolen buses amounted to at least $250,000, although he said he did not know how much the thieves would have made off the selling the bus parts.

"To my memory, I've never stolen a school bus, and I've never scrapped a school bus," Bonnet said.

Sunrise Bus Co. has a contract with Chicago Public Schools, and Bonnet said Friday the incident had no impact on getting students to school.

"Our job is take care of the kids, and every kid was picked up today," Bonnet said. "Every kid will go home today. Every kid will be picked up Monday. There's going to be no disruption of service."

The telephone number for Gonzalez Auto Parts was disconnected, and Yellowpages.com lists the business as closed.