Police investigate plot to poison Bucks Co. students

May 16, 2011 8:43:52 PM PDT
Parents in the Council Rock School District have been notified by school officials of an alleged plot to poison children on a field trip as part of a scam to profit from a lawsuit.

The letter, obtained by Action News and attributed to Superintendent Mark Klein, went out to affected families in the Bucks County district on Friday. It detailed the plot, which centered around a trip on the "Spirit of Philadelphia" cruise line.

According to Klein, the corporate offices of the "Spirit of Philadelphia" received an anonymous letter back in April that told of two parents in the Goodnoe Elementary School community who planned to poison the children during the cruise, making them sick, then sue the company that runs the cruise line.

"The motivation was that they would file a lawsuit after this event took place," Newtown Township Police Chief Rick Pasqualini said.

Klein's letter revealed no other details about the alleged plot.

Sixth-graders in seven of the 10 elementary schools had planned to take a trip to visit Citizens Bank Park followed by a cruise and lunch aboard the "Spirit of Philadelphia."

The trips were scheduled to take place between late May and early June, according to the letter.

District administrators immediately met with Newtown Township police who began an investigation that is ongoing, the letter said.

"I want to thank the corporate office of Spirit of Philadelphia for their understanding and vigilance on this issue," Klein said in the letter.

Newtown Township Police Chief Rick Pasqualini says the note could be a hoax, but officials are taking precautions anyway.

"It was a short cursive letter, anonymous, did not give us any suspects or anything like that. But we have to treat all these threats as real," Pasqualini said.

"For our 6th graders, my son is a 6th grader, it just takes from the experience. So whether it's real, that's real scary and sad. If it's a hoax it's still scary and sad that this is how we're getting attention."

Action News spoke with parents outside Goodnoe Elementary, many of whom believe this whole thing is some kind of twisted hoax. But they say that does not mean it should be ignored.

Students will still explore Philadelphia's historic area, but the lunch cruise is off the schedule.

Police hope to track down the sender of the letter, but the postmark is unclear, complicating the effort.