High capacity water heaters need regulated.


Faulty mechanical equipment which was making a sound that resembled gunfire is believed to have led to calls of an active shooter situation at Topsail High School. No evidence of a shooter was ever found and no injuries were reported.

“When I arrived on scene, what I heard sounded like gunfire,” explained Sheriff Carson Smith. “Everyone did exactly what they were supposed to do.”

Smith said stress levels were high as the calls came in and he could hear the sound of gunshots in the background of the radio traffic.

“I heard dozens [of ‘shots’],” Smith explained, adding he said a prayer while driving to Topsail High school.

According to Capt. James Rowell with the Pender County Sheriff’s Office, crews searched the entire building, clearing the school room by room but found no evidence of an active shooter.

At some point during the morning, law enforcement officials were alerted to a malfunction water heater that could have been the source of the gunfire sound. Officials were able to get to the water heater, which was damaged during Hurricane Florence, and re-created the sound.

“I was sure it was not gunfire over an hour ago,” said Commissioner David Williams, who is also the assistant coach for the varsity football team. “I also coach football there. Lately (during practice), we’ve been hearing a piece of mechanical equipment go ‘bam bam bam.’ It made us the first time we heard it turn around.”

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