Two young children received “burn-like” injuries Monday after coming into contact with an acidic pool chemical that had been poured on the slides of a playground in Longmeadow, Massachusetts.
Ashley Thielen, the mother of the two children, told Western Mass News that her kids were the first ones at the park at 8:15 a.m.
“I let the kids go play,” she said. “I didn’t notice that there was liquid kind of collected at the bottom of the slide. I just assumed it was rainwater. I didn’t really think much of it, and then, my baby, who is one, just started crying. That was when I knew this liquid that they were around wasn’t water.”
According to a press release, The Longmeadow Fire and Police were dispatched at 9:40 a.m. Monday to Bliss Park Playground in response to a “suspicious substance” found on the playground equipment. The Longmeadow Fire and EMS were also dispatched at the same time to the residential address of the two children who suffered “burn-like injuries” after visiting Bliss Park.
The Massachusetts Department of Fire Service Hazardous Material Response Team, the District Attorney’s office, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, and the Massachusetts State Police Crime Lab Team were also requested in response to the incident.
The firefighters dispatched to the playground discovered that the “suspicious substance” was acidic and that the substance had been poured on three of the playground slides.
An investigation by officials discovered that perpetrators had broken into the pump room in the park’s pool building basement, where the chemicals used to maintain the pool are stored. The investigation also found that two fences had been climbed and the cover to the ventilation shaft had been torn off.
Officials believe the perpetrators entered the pump room through the ventilation shaft and poured one of the pool-cleaner chemicals on the playground slides. The Haz-Mat team assigned to the case determined the substance to be muriatic acid, which is reported to be a very dangerous chemical.
“The pool chemicals had been stored properly in a secured area,” officials said. “A great deal of effort was employed to enter this space. We suspect that the perpetrators may have suffered acid burns to their hands or arms and their clothing may have indications of being degraded from contact with the acid.”
The Massachusetts State Police crime lab collected multiple items of evidence on the scene. Additional evidence is awaiting finger printing and forensic analysis.
According to the press release, the town of Longmeadow has worked with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to secure a “specialty contractor” who will clean the playground and any other required materials on the property. The Longmeadow Fire Department said a decision regarding the status of the playground will be made at the conclusion of the cleaning process.
“The playground area will remain fenced off out of an abundance of caution until we determine the next step,” the press release stated. “As of now all hazardous materials have been cleaned up and removed.”
While the playground remains closed for the safety of local residents and children, the rest of the park is open to the public.