2 charged with arson in haunted house fire

LOWER SOUTHAMPTON, Pa. - September 18, 2012

Lucas McChesney, 29, and John Tardino, 26, are accused of setting off fireworks that led to the blaze at the Valley of Fear, which sits on the property of the Phoenix Swim Club 301 West Bristol Road in Lower Southampton, back on August 8th.

According to police, McChesney and Tardino were employed to clean the haunted attractions on the property to prepare for the upcoming season.

At one point that afternoon, the two were inside the Treasure Room when they lit a device described by Tardino as a mortal shell, police said. The device was dropped into a treasure chest and exploded.

The explosion caused hanging burlap straps to catch fire. They tried to put the fire out, police said, but were unsuccessful.

Investigators say six employees reported hearing fireworks going off before the fire, as did a police officer who was visiting the Phoenix Swim Club.

Police say they interviewed Tardino on August 14th and, later that day, police say they escorted Tardino back to the scene where he allegedly led them to a wooded area off a hayride trail, where they recovered a green trash bag containing various fireworks.

The fire destroyed the building, equipment, props and animatronics stored from the previous season for a total of approximately $100,000 in damage.

Six firefighters were transported to area hospitals for injuries sustained while fighting the fire. Four were treated and released from Saint Mary Medical Center for heat exhaustion, while one had to be treated for a second degree burn. Another firefighter was transported to Holy Redeemer Hospital after sustaining a broken right fibula.

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