Juveniles to diversion program over Monticello bridge fire

MONTICELLO — Seven juveniles have been referred to the Piatt County juvenile diversion program in connection with the fire that burnt a portion of the trestle/bridge on Monticello's west-side walk/bike trail.

The May 23 blaze, caused by stray fireworks, damaged about 160 feet of the structure that crosses the Sangamon River.

Piatt County State's Attorney Dana Rhoades said no formal charges will be filed if the youths complete "monthly reporting to probation, community service work, restitution and substance abuse evaluation."

She said a group of six were on the bridge when another juvenile rode by on a bicycle and gave them two large firework mortars.

"There is no evidence that members of the group knew the juvenile on the bike," she added. The group then set off the fireworks, causing dry grass around the trestle to burn, which eventually caught the trestle and trail surface on fire.

Rhoades said she felt the evidence pointed to an accidental cause and not intentional arson, as seen by the fact the juveniles tried to extinguish the fire twice.

"The fireworks were not brought to the bridge with the intent to light them," she said.

The city is investigating the cost to replace the damaged bridge deck and underlying structure, with a cost currently estimated at $50,000.

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