Train robbery: Armed men rob CSX train in Hampton County town of Estill. Suspects at large.
Southern Hampton County witnessed a good old fashioned train robbery Friday − but with new techniques and new loot.
Local and state police responded to locations along U.S. Highway 321 near Estill for reports of armed men robbing cargo from from a CSX Transportation train.
The train robbery suspects were still at large as of Saturday morning, according to Sheriff Anthony Russell. He said local and state police continue to investigate.
Russell said via text message around 8 p.m. Friday that no arrests have been made. It is unclear if police have any suspects.
The event was sparked by the sighting of an armed man at approximately 12:44 p.m. Friday, when the Hampton County Sheriff’s Office responded to a call regarding a man with a gun standing on the railroad tracks near Steep Bottom Road and Highway 321 in Estill. Traffic on that highway was stopped between the town of Estill and the town of Scotia, said H.C. Emergency Management Division Director Susanne Peeples.
The call was made by a CSX train conductor. According to the conductor, a suspect described as an "armed gunman" was seen standing on the tracks near the train. It appears to the caller that this was an attempt to get the train to stop and possibly gain access to the cargoes
At 1:46 p.m. the HCSO posted on its Facebook page that "there is a gunman on the loose in the area near and around Canfor Southern Pine in Estill. Hwy 321 near this area and Steep Bottom Road is blocked off. Please avoid this area!"
CSX personnel and responding officers then learned that there were damages to the train’s outer cargo and several catalytic converters were removed from new cars being transported on the train, according to a HCSO social media statement. While checking the train to see if anyone on board was hurt, reports said deputies spotted three male suspects jumping off of the train with cutting tools.
Law enforcement established a security perimeter and called K-9 dogs to track the suspects. The HCSO also called the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division for assistance, and SLED sent its Crime Scene Unit and a search helicopter.
SLED helicopter and SLED Crime Scene were called to assist.
H.C. Sheriff Anthony Russell told The Hampton County Guardian Friday night that the manhunt for suspects had been called off around 7:47 p.m. and the train cars were moved to a location off of Highway 321 so the SLED Crime Scene Unit can process the scene for evidence, and to clear the area and allow traffic flow to continue in the area safely.
The HCSO is also being assisted by the Hampton Police Department, Varnville Police Department, Estill Police Department, Gifford Police Department, Yemassee Police Department, Jasper County Sheriff’s Office, Allendale County Sheriff’s Office, S.C. Department of Natural Resources, CSX Police and the FBI field Office. H.C. Sheriff Anthony Russell would like to thank all agencies involved.
Local police believe this is an isolated incident. If anyone has any information, please call the HCSO anonymous tip line at 1-866-942-1120.
This is a developing story which will be updated as new information develops.
This article originally appeared on Greenville News: Armed men involved in train robbery in Hampton County town of Estill