Arson suspected in LI elementary school fire

August 10, 2010 2:57:34 PM PDT
Nassau County police are looking for the suspected arsonists who set fire to an elementary school in West Hempstead. George Washington Elementary School in West Hempstead sustained heavy fire and water damage Monday evening. A temporary building was also badly damaged. The inferno broke out just after dark, when a small classroom building behind the main school lit in flames.

More than 100 firefighters, who responded just after 8:30 p.m. Monday, worked for about a half hour before containing the fire.

While the firefighters battled the blaze of the 40- year-old building, West Hempstead School Superintendent John Hogan, collapsed after arriving at the scene and was rushed to the hospital. Neighbors say they heard an explosion and saw several people run from the scene.

According to the witnesses, a large group of teens congregated in the schoolyard hours just before the fire. Around 8:30p.m, Fred Hinck watched them disappear behind the building. He said soon after, a fire broke.

"Before you knew it the flames were like sky high and there was smoke all over the place," said Hinck.

The teens all ran away and neighbors heard them asking one another, if they were hurt.

The neighbors' description of the event leaves clues which may lead Kevin Smith, Nassau County Detective, closer to the suspects.

"In setting this blaze, it's possible one of the people involved may have sustained some kind of an injury, said smith.