Man injured when he fell from a ladder while trying to fix a leak caused when copper downspouts were pulled from the building’s exterior by thieves.
Sunday, April 20, was Fred Benson’s first day back on the job as sexton of the Parish of the Epiphany after suffering a serious head injury on Thursday, March 20.
Benson, 57, was injured when he fell from a ladder while trying to fix a leak caused when copper downspouts were pulled from the building’s exterior by thieves.
According to police reports, on Feb. 13, five separate downspouts were reported stolen by church staff. And on Feb. 14, three more were ripped from the side of building.
“In our courtyard, two of the downspouts were stolen, and water was seeping into the building,” said Benson. “I just wanted to clean the gutter out and I slipped and fell.”
According to Benson, he was about 10-feet off the ground when he toppled off the ladder.
“Basically, I put a ladder up on a lower roof and because it was at an angle the ladder slipped and down I went,” he said.
Benson landed on the lower roof then fell onto a stone patio in the courtyard where he was found by church staff a short time later. He spent two nights in the hospital as a result of his injuries and a reddened scar can still be seen near his left temple.
“I don’t know what whoever stole the downspouts would have gotten from them,” said Benson. “That’s probably the worst thing they could do. Off of a church of all places.”
The Parish of the Epiphany is Winchester’s latest victim of an increasing trend of copper thefts that have plagued communities across the county in the past few years.
According to Kitco Precious Metals, a worldwide metal retailer, the price of copper has quadrupled since 2003 from about $1 per pound to about $4 per pound, due largely to increased world demand.
Pulling copper from the sides of churches, such as the Parish of the Epiphany, or pricey homes, is an easy way for thieves to fill their trucks with the valuable construction material, and make a few extra dollars with a quick trip to a recycling facility.
According to Parish of the Epiphany Rev. Bob Trache, thieves have targeted several local buildings, including the Winchester Community Music School, St. Mary’s Catholic Parish, and a private residence.
“These guys, I think, know what they’re doing,” said Trache, who believes the thieves likely scouted out his church before taking the downspouts.
Detectives documented boot prints in the snow and slush outside of the Parish shortly after the incident, but no arrests have been made.
Police Chief Ken Albertelli said the investigation into the thefts has reached a dead-end.
“There’s very little to pursue,” he said. There were no witnesses to any of the thefts.
According to Albertelli, some of the stolen copper may have ended up in an Everett recycling plant, but there’s no concrete evidence to support the theory yet.
“The problem is, you just can’t go onto the [recycling facilities] and look around,” he said. “It’s their business, so they’re not about to ask any questions (when scrap metal comes in) … or answer any.”
There haven’t been any reported thefts in the past month or so, but as long as the price of copper continues to rise, Albertelli expects there could be more thefts in the future.“It’s like gas; it keeps going up,” he said.
The Parish of the Epiphany has since ordered new downspouts to replace those that were stolen, but this time, they aren’t using copper, said Trache. They opted for aluminum painted to look like copper.
Benson, who has been the church sexton for nearly 20 years, said he was happy to be back to work, and is feeling better since his accident.
“It was almost a miracle, really,” said Benson.
Eric Tsetsi can be reached at 781-674-7731 or email@example.com.