Some Bonners Ferry children may be left with scars from chemical burns they received on a school playground slide.
Vandals poured an acidic drain cleaner, stolen from the Mount Hall Elementary School’s janitor closet, on the slide.
“I think it’s terrible that someone would want to do that,” said Charmaine Langford, mother of 6-year-old Casey Langford, one of the burn victims.
At least four Bonners Ferry children were burned. One, 2-year-old Bradley Clausen, was hospitalized.
“We’ll forgive anybody who’s done this,” said his mother, Tina Clausen. “We’d just like them to see what they’ve done.”
According to the Boundary County Sheriff’s Department, someone broke into the Mount Hall school on June 8 or June 9. The vandal or vandals came in through a window and stole a stapler, $4 in quarters and hundreds of colorful stickers. The janitor’s closet was broken into, and empty bottles of cleaner tossed throughout the school. Deputies are still looking for suspects.
The following Monday, Peewee Baseball players and their parents showed up at the school’s playfield for practice. Some of the players’ younger siblings climbed onto the slide to play.
Little Bradley Clausen, wearing shorts, slid down and fell. He began crying, and his parents figured he’d bumped his head. They dusted him off, but he kept crying throughout the 90-minute practice.
“He told me there was an owwie on his leg,” his mother said.
Back home, the boy’s parents gave him children’s Tylenol and dressed him in his pajamas. They couldn’t see any marks on his legs, but put a Band-Aid on to make him feel better.
“The next morning, he was feverish. His whole leg, from his knee to his ankle, was awful - bubbly and red,” said Tina Clausen. Over at Casey Langford’s house, his parents were facing an identical dilemma. He’d also slid down the slide in shorts.
“He came home saying his legs hurt,” said Charmaine Lanford. “We gave him aspirin. We figured maybe it was growing pains. There was nothing there.”
On Tuesday, Casey’s calves were bright red and covered with yellow blisters.
The Clausens took their toddler to Boundary County Community Hospital, and from there puzzled doctors sent him to Bonner General Hospital in Sandpoint.
Doctors gave the boy antibiotics and took cultures, trying to figure out the mystery.
Tina Clausen’s uncle, Mike Loporto, works as a janitor at Mount Hall school. He remembered the break-in, and the cleaning chemicals.
Loporto went out to the slide and found a stain on it.
“He scraped it off and smelled it and he knew what it was,” said Tina Clausen.
It was Mark 50, an industrial-strength drain cleaner containing hydrochloric acid. He called his wife and told her to tell the doctors to treat the boy for a chemical burn.
Doctors put the boy in a bath. He screamed as hospital workers rinsed his blistered legs, applied cream and wrapped them with bandages. He’ll have some scars.
Similar treatment was in store for Casey Langford, who suffered second-degree burns, and Bradley Clausen’s 5-year-old sister, Sissy. A 3-year-old boy was also burned.
Tina Clausen said she was furious at the vandals at first, but has since cooled down.
“I don’t know if they knew what was in it (the cleaner) or what they’d done,” she said.