More than a half a million dollars worth of heavy equipment was torched early this morning at the Chocolate Hole construction site of the luxury fractional ownership resort Pond Bay Club.
Four uninsured pieces of heavy equipment ranging from bulldozers to trackhoes — each worth about $200,000 — was destroyed in what appeared to be an arson at the site around 2:15 a.m. on Friday morning, April 18.
All of the equipment was owned by St. Thomas-based WMK Mechanical Group, which recently won the competitive bid to handle excavation at the Pond Bay Club construction site.
The site remained locked down Friday as V.I. Fire Department officials, including the St. Thomas-based arson inspector, investigated. Local officials were expected to contact the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms as well.
Preliminary investigations indicated that an accelerant was ignited in the cab of each of the pieces of heavy equipment, according to officials. No one was injured in the blaze.
WMK officials also suspect foul play as employees had recently been threatened by individuals who lost out in the bidding process, explained WMK president William Koenig.
“There have been threats made by disappointed bidders which have been reported to the fire marshal and it’s being investigated as we speak,” Koenig said. “They threatened me and my superintendent and independent people working for us. They told us that our equipment would be destroyed if we put it on the site.”
Koenig placed some blame on the general contractor Florida-based Wharton-Smith, Inc. which didn’t act after being informed of the threats.
“I’m disappointed in the general contractor,” said Koenig. “They said they were looking into getting a security guard and we thought they would have done that by now.”
WMK’s four pieces of equipment were the only ones targeted, further arousing suspicion.
“None of the other equipment at the site was touched,” said Koenig. “There is more than a million dollars worth of equipment at the site and only our four pieces were torched.”
“There is newer and nicer equipment at the site and only our isolated equipment was touched,” said Koenig.
Despite the set-back, WMK will continue its work, Koenig explained.
“We’re moving more equipment over here as we speak,” he said. “We will finish this job and comply with the terms of our contract. We won’t let threats or any retaliatory actions like this stop us.”
WMK has been in business for 30 years and has never been the victim of retaliation, according to Koenig.
“Never before have I had these kinds of problems,” he said. “It’s a sorry state of affairs that disappointed bidders resort to this kind of action.”
Wharton-Smith has retained security detail at the site and WMK is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of those responsible for setting the fire. VIFD officials are still investigating the scene.
Anyone with information is urged to call (340) 473-6658.