Arrest in Boeing helicopter sabotage

May 20, 2008 9:16:10 PM PDT
Authorities have arrested one alleged saboteur at Ridley Park's Boeing plant, and are still seeking another. Federal investigators charged assembly line worker Matthew Kevin Montgomery, 33, of Trevose, with vandalizing a military helicopter. They say he cut a bundle of about 70 electrical electrical wires during his last shift on the CH-47 Chinook helicopter line. A regular inspection turned up the production flaw on May 12th.

The chief federal prosecutor says Montgomery's motive may have been because he didn't want to change jobs. He was assigned to transfer to another aircraft line, the V-22 Osprey, in another building. Authorities say Montgomery had worked at the Boeing plant for about 18 months before his arrest late Monday, nine days after the CH-47 Chinook aircraft was disabled.

"For whatever reason, that was personal to him, the issue of his employment on that line and some sense of appreciation, or lack of appreciation, for the job that he thought he was doing seemed to be something that may have motivated him to act out the way he did," said U.S. Attorney Patrick Meehan.

Montgomery continued to work at the plant, where he made $19.10 an hour working the second shift, until he allegedly admitted responsibility for the crime during an interview Monday with federal investigators.

"He's very concerned and very remorseful," said public defender Mara Meehan, who represented him at a hearing Tuesday.

"He's been pretty upset, which is one reason why concerns have been raised about mental health."

U.S. Magistrate Judge Henry Perkin agreed Tuesday to release Montgomery on $25,000 bail. The judge ordered him to live with his parents in Southampton, undergo a mental health exam and have no contact with Boeing or its employees.

The production line was shut down early last week after the vandalism was discovered by workers inside the Ridley Park plant.

Federal officials handed out fliers to workers, offering a $5,000 reward for information in the case.

"I don't think there's anybody who cares more about resolving this than the people whose jobs are on the line," U.S. Attorney Patrick Meehan said at a news conference Tuesday. Article 9 of the arrest warrant states: "defendant Montgomery admitted today that he intentionally cut and damaged wires on unit 8717 on Saturday, May 10th during his scheduled work hours."

But this only solves one half of the Boeing plant's Chinook mysteries. On that same assembly line, inspectors discovered sabotage to a second Chinook. That crime remains unsolved.

"At this point in time we feel the cut wire issue has been resolved but we continue to investigate the other incident relative to the washer in the transmission of the other Chinook," said DCIS Special Agent Ed Bradley According to authorities, Montgomery is not currently a suspect in a separate act of vandalism on a second helicopter at the plant.

Meehan said authorities were still trying to determine who damaged the second helicopter. Investigators also declined to specify when they think that aircraft was damaged.

"The focus of the investigation continues to be on one or more Boeing employees," federal investigators said in a statement.

"Montgomery is not currently a suspect in the second investigation."

The Chinook is the Army's workhorse aircraft and is used to transport troops and supplies. Boeing is currently producing new Chinooks for the Army, as well as updating older models.

Montgomery admitted cutting the wires on the morning of May 10, according to an arrest affidavit. The helicopter would not have been able to fly with the cut wires, investigators said.

A union official said he believes the vandalism was committed by someone with personal problems, not over any contract issues at the plant.

"A lot of our members are relieved, saying this type of person does not belong in this facility," said John DeFrancisco, the president of United Auto Workers 1069. "They can go back to work and not have to look over their shoulders or feel there's anybody in there doing damage."