Prank depletes water supply as 350,000 gallons spew from fire hydrants

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By Jacquelyn Stoess Hack

A so-called prank left more than a thousand Oldham and Henry County homes with little or without water pressure this week as firefighters scrambled to shut off gushing fire hydrants and police searched for the pranksters.

Oldham County Dispatch received calls from 100 to 150 homeowners without water late Tuesday and heard reports that the driver of a blue Jeep Cherokee had been opening hydrants.

Crews from La Grange Fire & Rescue were dispatched to shut off several hydrants during a two-hour span, and faced a growing concern that as the water dropped to critical levels, if a home in the area caught fire they would not have water to fight it.

Officials from Oldham County Water and Henry County Water reported that nine to 14 hydrants had been spewing hundreds of thousands of gallons of water in La Grange and L'Esprit.

By midnight, the prank had drained a 350,000 gallon water tank and officials activated emergency pumps to bring in water from other areas as more than 1,000 homes experienced low water pressure, or none at all.

An Oldham County Sheriff's Deputy located the vehicle on Park Shore Road about 11:30 p.m. and arrested Joshua T. Smith, 18, of La Grange.

According to court documents, Smith admitted to the deputy that he had been opening hydrants throughout the area.

The last hydrant Smith allegedly opened prompted transportation officials to close a road flooded by nearly a foot of water.

Smith is charged with wanton endangerment "with total disregard to public safety" knowing that his actions would endanger human life by depleting the water supply if there was a fire, the sheriff's deputy detailed in Smith's arrest report.

He is also charged with carrying a concealed weapon for a shotgun stowed in his vehicle, failure to maintain insurance, failure to produce an insurance card and failure to wear seatbelts.

Charges could be pending for two passengers in the vehicle – an 18-year-old woman and 17-year-old boy who were soaked in water and had stripped down to their undergarments. Both were released to their parents.

The pair told police Smith had opened all of the hydrants but they had played in the water afterward.

Smith, who spent the night in the Oldham County Jail, pleaded not guilty in Oldham district court Wednesday morning.

Judge Diana Wheeler released Smith on a $10,000 unsecured bond and ordered Smith to remain law-abiding. He has no prior offenses.

His next court appearance is scheduled July 27.

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