EAU CLAIRE (AP) -Twenty-six former school buses used for hauling watermelons in southwestern Michigan have been vandalized, authorities said.

Brake lines were cut on all of the buses used by Kerlikowske Family Farms, The Herald-Palladium of St. Joseph reported. The buses for the farm based in Berrien County’s Oronoko Township haul watermelons to an Eau Claire processing facility.

Bus keys also were stolen. Ed Kerlikowske, one of the farm owners, said the vandalism was discovered Wednesday during a pre-trip inspection.

“It had to have been somebody with something to gain,” he said. “Someone took very specific action to cut both the front and back brake lines. This is dangerous stuff.”

The damage was estimated at $3,500 to $5,000. Police are investigating, and Eau Claire police Chief Charles Sherene said the vandalism was the biggest crime of the summer in his jurisdiction. He said it’s the first time there’s been such a problem with the buses.

“Somebody knew what they were doing,” Sherene said.

Kerlikowske Family Farms has been buying and converting old school buses for use hauling watermelons for about nine years. The buses can hold about 1,000 watermelons each and are used to haul from fields in Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties.

The buses were being repaired to handle the watermelon harvest.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.


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