Sprinkler Malfunction Ruins Long Island High School’s Graduation Ceremony

ROCKVILLE CENTRE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A Long Island high school is holding a second graduation ceremony after its first graduation was ruined by a foul-smelling sprinkler malfunction last week.

South Side High School’s new ceremony will be held this Thursday at the school’s auditorium in Rockville Centre, Newsday reported.

Principal John Murphy is calling it “Graduation, Part 2,” saying it’s important to hold a ceremony so every student gets the recognition they deserved to have during the first ceremony.

The first graduation ceremony, held at Hofstra University last Friday, ended prematurely when the sprinklers began malfunctioning, drenching family and friends of graduates with smelly water.

“Everyone was soaked, drenched in suits and stuff. People had umbrellas out,” graduate Jessica Mauro told CBS2’s Marc Liverman. “There was a guy in a full suit, sopping wet, drenched.”

“The fire alarm started going off, and that’s when I think people started getting a little nervous,” she added.

“The real concern for the next three hours was getting kids safe, getting kids accounted for,” Murphy said.

He said he didn’t know when the water was going to stop.

“I was worried that in the exodus people started to panic, and then there’s the incidental contact and the injuries there that could occur,” he said.

About 1,000 people were evacuated, including the 254 graduates. 

Murphy said as a result 14 graduates did not have the opportunity to be recognized on stage, class president Paulina Kenny did not give her speech, the senior video was not shown, and the entire class did not receive their diplomas.

The school will stream the graduation do-over live on its website.

“Never forget this one. This one is one to tell the children, the grandchildren, all the way down,” Mauro said.

Hofstra University apologized for the malfunction and addressed health concerns raised by some people about the foul-smelling water.

“The sprinkler system is tested frequently (last in early 2017) and the equipment failure was unfortunately totally unpredictable,” the university said. “We have been assured that while unpleasant, there are no health risks associated with the water discharge from pressurized fire systems.”

“As the water inside the sprinkler system sits pressurized for long periods of time, it is stagnant, and contains residue of pipe cutting oil, a nonflammable oil used by plumbers and made from plant, animal and petroleum extracts,” the school explained.

There was also a burning smell caused by water hitting the arena lights, according to the university.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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