Broken pipe floods Educational Complex band room


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ST. CROIX - Clean-up efforts continued on Monday and are expected to last at least through the end of the week as music students and their instructors try to salvage equipment damaged when the entire music suite of Educational Complex High School was flooded Friday.

A giant wet-vac, mops and brooms were visible in the classroom as band instructor Kevre Hendricks reflected on the tragedy that struck the department when a pipe burst sometime overnight Thursday into Friday morning.

Monday as some students continued to mop out the classroom, Hendricks left the doors open to help with the ventilation and drying process.

On the southern side of the suite, a small crew was tiling the band room where they had ripped up the saturated carpet Friday and Hendricks said the plan is to replace the carpet as soon as possible.

Principal Willard John said the magnitude of the loss is not yet known, but Hendricks will be going through the equipment soon to determine exactly what is a total loss and what has dried out well and can work, then they will begin to work on replacing what was lost.

Hendricks said he had been working late Thursday, which is usual for him, and left the school about 8 p.m. Early Friday, he was alerted by calls from students that water was pouring out from under the doors that lead to the music suite.

"Before I left, I felt a little drip coming from the ceiling and thought it was odd, and said I would have someone look at it in the morning," he said. "By the time I was getting dressed for work the next day, students started calling, saying something was wrong and there was watering coming under the doors."

Hendricks said he rushed over to the school, and when he opened the door, the water began pouring out. "It was like a river," he said. "Everything was floating in about 4 inches of water. We could see the water pouring down from the ceiling and everything was wet."

He said he and the students rushed into the rooms and began lifting things up off the floor and moving things out of the room in hopes of limiting the impact of the flood.

"We had equipment, instruments, books, uniforms and other things that we need and use on a daily basis," he said. "It was all wet, so we pulled out as much as we could to get them to start drying out so we can save whatever was possible."

He said there were three pianos that he fears they won't be able to save.

John said the flooding was caused by a copper pipe that runs inside the concrete wall and provides water to the sink and a bathroom in the suite. As soon as John arrived at the school, he found the water source and closed it off, he said.

"We didn't know when the leaking started, but we knew we had to get it turned off," John said.

John said Education Department maintenance crews responded quickly to help with the situation and within 90 minutes, he said the break was repaired and he was able to turn the water back on.

Hendricks said during the day on Friday, staff, students and parents helped to sweep out and mop out the rooms while others used wet-vacs that had been loaned to them to get out the water as fast as possible. Maintenance crews continued working during the weekend to limit the interruption of instruction, he said.

"We had to work fast because we need our equipment," he said. "We have a number of concerts and other events that we have to practice and plan for, so we can't afford to lose time."

John said the Education Department administration responded quickly and has been working closely to ensure that the students' needs are met. He said the community has also stepped up with donated items and space.

"We were able to store some of the equipment and instruments at Rising Stars and Crowley Shipping Company donated a 40-foot trailer that we will use for temporary storage, and we are so very grateful," he said.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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