Officials: 2 children hurt after acid is poured onto playground slides

Authorities have released new details into a weekend incident that forced the closure of a Longmeadow, Massachusetts, playground.
Published: Jun. 13, 2023 at 8:20 AM CDT
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LONGMEADOW, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM/Gray News) – Longmeadow Police are investigating an incident from over the weekend that left at least two children injured at the Bliss Park playground.

Longmeadow Fire and Police departments responded to several calls Sunday morning about a “suspicious substance” on the playground. They later learned it was a hazardous chemical that left at least two children with burn-like injuries.

Officials have identified the hazardous chemical as muriatic acid, a commonly used chemical to clean bacteria from pools. They said that it was poured onto three slides at the playground.

The incident prompted an investigation by the Longmeadow Fire Department, the Massachusetts State Police Crime Lab, the District Attorney’s Office and other state agencies.

Ashley Thielen was taking her kids to what seemed like a regular day at Bliss Park on Sunday, but after her kids ran up to her sobbing after playing on the playground, she realized her kids were potentially in danger.

Thielen said her two children were injured after sliding through the chemical puddle.

“We got there probably 8:15 yesterday morning, so we were the first ones there, I think,” she said. “I let the kids go play. I didn’t notice that there was liquid to collect 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 1, just started crying. That was when I knew this liquid that they were around wasn’t water.”

Thielen sent photos of her children to WGGB. Her child’s legs were left swollen and blistered after coming in contact with the chemicals. She said the wounds are mostly superficial and her kids are OK, but she thinks her situation could have ended up much worse.

“The thing that he always does is, with our water table, is he dips his whole face into it, so I’m actually surprised he didn’t do that because the bottom of the slide, where it was, there was a good amount of it collected there,” Thielen said. “I was surprised he didn’t start splashing in it.”

Longmeadow Police Captain Carl Mazzaferro said that when they started their investigation, police noticed what appeared to be a break-in to the pump room at the pool directly behind the playground, where whoever broke in got the chemicals.

“They were able to scale a couple of fences, then they gained access into the door into the chemical area,” Mazzaferro said.

Additional evidence was gathered at the scene and was sent to the Massachusetts State Police Crime Lab for forensic analysis and fingerprinting, according to the Longmeadow Fire Department in a press release.

This is not the first time this pool house has had chemical concerns. In 2018, a different acidic substance spilled but was contained to the pool building, and no injuries were reported.

Mazzaferro said that there are plans to heighten security around the pool until further action is taken.

“The Longmeadow Police Department will be having extra patrols, and we’ve had extra patrols since this incident at the Bliss Park pool and the pool house area,” he said.

Community members said they were surprised by the incident.

“It’s scary that they would do something like that without thinking about the consequences,” said Kristin Cerasa of Springfield.

“How could anyone do that when the only people they’re going to hurt are little kids?” added Debora Lorenzo of Agawam.

The playground has been cleaned but will remain closed for the rest of the week out of an abundance of caution. The rest of the park is still open.