Arson investigation after Lake Grove playground goes up in flames

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Kristin Thorne has the story from Lake Grove. (WABC)

Suffolk County police are searching for a suspected arsonist who set a playground on fire.

It happened at William Auer Elementary School in Lake Grove on Sunday, and a neighbor captured the fiery inferno.

"It smelt like plastic burning, rubber burning," Chris D'Amato said. "I turned around, didn't see anything, and when I looked north, there was a huge black cloud of smoke coming out of the back of the school."

An arson squad is now investigating the blaze, which melted parts of the playground and completely destroyed a slide.

Principal Ken Gutmann says the school's insurance has been notified and that kids will have a new playground at the beginning of the school year. But that doesn't take away from what could be a disturbing reality.

"If it was intentional, certainly shocked that somebody would target a school playground for young people," Gutmann said.

For residents, this isn't just any playground. They say the only reason it's even here is because 12 years ago, members of the school community came together and raised money to build it.

Sot. Liam Webber/Former student

"Sad," former student Liam Webber said. "We played on this playground for five years, and now it's gone."

"I don't think it's fair for them to take it away from the kids like this," former student Josh Ackerler said. "I know if I went to this school still, I would be disappointed

Current student Gianna DeFranza had to see the damage for herself.

"I was sad because fifth graders take pictures here," she said. "And I don't want it to be broken."

Gutmann says the school turned surveillance video over to police that shows people outside the building around the time of the fire. But, he says, it doesn't show much more than that.

Anyone with information is asked to call police.
Related Topics:
arsonfirearson investigationplaygroundLake Grove
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