Two former haunted house employees are facing a slew of charges after Lower Southampton Fire Marshall William Oettinger ruled that the blaze that destroyd the Bucks County Halloween attraction was caused by arson. Authorities collected fireworks and fireworks paraphernalia from the scene of the fire, according to an affidavit.
Lucas McChesney, 29, of Philadelphia, has been arraigned on first-degree arson and related feloney charges after he turned himself into police, and an arrest warrant was issued on the same charges for John Tardino, 26, of Middletown.
All six of the Phoenix Sport Club employees who were interviewed during the investigation reported hearing what they described as fireworks going off just before they observed the fire. One of the employees observed McChesney and Tardino moving items away from the building, including a tractor.
Tardino admitted to Detective Eric Landamia on Aug. 14 that he set off fire works on the property with McChesney. He said that he was in the "treasure room" of the ship wreck-themed haunted house when what he described as a "mortar shell" was lit. The mortar shell was dropped into a treasure chest in the center of the room. When the mortar shell detonated, Tardino said that hanging burlap strands used as props in the room caught fire. He said that the two tried to unsuccessfully extinguish the fire.
On Aug. 14, Tardino escorted Detective Landamia and representatives from the fire marshall's office to a wooded area off of the hayride trail on the Valley of Fear property where he showed them a large green trash bag. The bag contained various fireworks that were consistent with the ones recovered at the scene of the fire.
The building that caught fire was housing animatronics and hayride equipment from the previous season, all of which were consumed by the flames. They were valued at about $100,000.
While fighting the blaze, six fire fighters from responding companies were transported to area hospitals for injuries, including one fire fighter who sustained a second-degree burn and another who broke a leg.
McChesney was sent to Bucks County Prison in lieu of $5,000 bail.
The previous information was supplied by the Lower Southampton Police Department. It does not indicate a conviction. For full details from the propable cause affidavit, click on the attached PDF file.