University of Tennessee — UT Police investigators have arrested three UT students on felony vandalism charges in connection to the Clement Hall pipe burst that caused the evacuation of the building and damages over the weekend.
John Robert Reed, 19, Aaron Edward Griesmer, 18, and Thomas Harvey Bellet, 18 were charged with felony vandalism Wednesday. They were transported to the Knox County Detention Facility for booking. Griesmer and Reed were released early Thursday on $5,000 bond. Bellet was still in custody on a $5,000 bond as of Thursday afternoon.
The students told UTPD investigators that they were punching ceiling tiles in the hallway outside their suite. The three are suitemates on the seventh floor of Clement Hall.
According to the arrest warrant, one of the punched out ceiling tiles bent a metal piece of the false ceiling upwards and hit the piping which caused it to burst. The water flowed for approximately 20 minutes at approximately 100 gallons a minute.
The damage, at this point, is still rolling as costs are still being incurred by the university. The last known estimate was $2 million, the warrant said.
As the University of Tennessee's Housing Department continues its investigation into the vandalism incident that caused a pipe to burst, release a significant amount of water, and flood the 7th floor of Clement Hall over the weekend -- students on that floor were getting ready to return to their rooms.
The floor reopened to students at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.
The university asked Monday that any students who saw or heard anything in the early morning hours of Sunday to alert staff. It's unclear what led investigators to the three suspects identified on Thursday.
Students were temporarily reassigned to Carrick Halls and the Hilton Knoxville when the pipe burst.
Remaining residents who stayed at home or with friends Sunday night were also told they would be relocated once they returned to Clement Hall to speak with hall staff.
University Housing said students who were returning on Tuesday should know that dehumidifiers may be operating in the hallways as part of the process of reducing the relative humidity of the building following the flood.
Both elevators in the North tower of the building are operational. South tower elevators are awaiting parts, but South tower rooms can be reached by North elevators.
"You may find that furniture in your room has been moved around, as part of the cleanup and drying process," a release said. "When you return to your room, please keep your floors clear of items in case Belfor Property Restoration needs to re-enter your room for continued cleanup efforts."
If a student finds it inconvenient or disruptive to their studies to return to Clement Hall immediately, they can remain in their temporary assignment until after they have completed finals, or until Friday, Dec. 14. After that, students must be checked out of temporary space.
According to University Housing, to check out from on-campus temporary accommodation, students should remove belongings and return the key to the front desk of the building where they were staying.
"If you were staying off-site in a hotel, your Hall Director will email you check-out instructions," the release said. "If you did not initially take temporary accommodations, but need them to complete your finals, please contact your Hall Director."
At around 5:15 p.m. Monday, university officials said power was restored to the North Tower. It had been out since the flooding occurred. The South Tower has power.
"Additionally, the hot water valves are starting to heat up and provide hot water again. All students except those living on the 7th floor can return to the building," Katherine Saxon Keith, UT Coordinator for Student Communications, said.
Chylynne Prince is staying at South Carrick right now.
She lost nearly everything in her seventh-floor room in Clement Hall.
"When it happened, it sounded like someone was trying to break in. Three loud booms and then a crash, and then the alarm went off, and I saw water coming underneath my door," Prince said.
She said studying is the last thing on her mind-- even during this week of finals.
"It's just very inconvenient, considering what I'm used to--being in my own space. Especially around finals times, a lot of my work is on my laptop, and I can't turn it in at the moment. I'm just hoping my professors understand," she said.
Price said she has a message for the alleged vandals.
"Even though you can't get our stuff back, I feel like if you were to call yourself a man, you would apologize. Or even a female--if it was a female who did it--just to call yourself a decent human being. Apologize to all the people who you have negatively affected in this action that you've done."
UT said no other residents from other areas of the residence hall have requested to be relocated.
University Housing set up charging areas in the Clement Hall front lobby and in a multipurpose room for students whose rooms were still without power.
The Office of the Provost said it was reaching out to the instructors of affected students to alert them of the situation.
University Housing said it was working with an elevator service contractor to bring the elevators back online. The electrical bus ducts were being inspected.
Belfor Property Restoration is still working on the 7th floor to extract the water from the pipe burst in both student rooms and common areas, according to UT.
UPDATE Monday at 8:45 a.m.: Some University of Tennessee students could be out of their dorms until Wednesday, the university said in a news release on Sunday night, due to a water pipe burst caused by vandalism.
A water pipe used for fire suppression burst on the 7th floor of Clement Hall early Sunday morning, causing major flooding on that floor of the building and affecting those below it as well.
"For all residents of Clement Hall, please be aware that access to the building has been restricted to the main entrance near the front desk," UT said in the release. "Elevator service is not operable at this time. Additionally, hot water pumps are currently compromised, so hot water is not available at this time. Hot water should be restored shortly."
7th floor residents, a total of 90 students, won't be able to stay in their rooms until the building has been thoroughly dried, the release said, which could take last through Wednesday. University Housing has provided temporary accommodations for residents affected.
Residents would need to be escorted to their rooms to retrieve any additional belongings needed before Wednesday, the release said.
Students not living on the 7th floor were able to return to their rooms as of Sunday night.
Power was restored to the South Tower of the building Sunday night, but water from the burst did damage electrical service to the North Tower, according to the release. Electricity was not expected to be returned to the North Tower for several days as the system dries out and is repaired, but backup lighting in the hallways and the WiFi network was functional as of Sunday night. Fire monitoring and suppression systems were also working Sunday night in the North Tower.
UT was working to provide students in the North Tower with battery-operated lights as of Sunday night, as they were expected to stay in their dorms without power, but students in need of special housing accommodations were asked to speak with their hall director, the release said.
The university asked anyone with any information on the incident to step forward.
"We encourage anyone who saw or heard suspicious activity in the early morning hours today to report it to the front desk," the release said. "University Housing is investigating the incident."
ORIGINAL STORY: Clement Hall, a residence hall at the University of Tennessee, was evacuated early Sunday morning after a pipe burst on the seventh floor from an act of vandalism, a news release from UT said. The hall is home to about 400 students.
A water supply line on the 7th floor of the residence hall burst, causing "significant flooding" on that floor and compromising other systems in other parts of the building, the release said.
"We heard, 'There's an emergency you must evacuate.' So, we left," freshman Elijah Ramsey said.
A significant amount of water flooded the 7th floor and floors below. Residents were without power in the north tower of Clement Hall for part of Sunday.
UT said residents of the 7th floor, a total of 90 in the north and south tower, will need to be temporarily relocated, as it will take several days to extract the water on that floor.
The university is working on finding relocation spaces, it said, which could include on-campus options and hotels.
Clement residents were relocated to Strong Hall on Sunday, and the United Residence Hall council is brought them food while they waited.
"I woke up. Basically fell out of bed because I was freaking out," freshman Brooklyn Cathey said.
The university said a significant amount of water spread from the seventh floor to the floors below, including closets with electrical equipment.
Students have posted about the flooding on Snapchat. One post said students evacuated the hall around 5:30 a.m. Sunday morning.
"The fire trucks showed up, and about thirty minutes later we were told to go into Strong Hall and that it was going to be a while," senior Olivia Dixon said.
Many students said the incident is a big inconvenience during finals week.
"I haven't been able to study. There's tons of stuff do this week. I have stuff due tomorrow that I haven't been able to finish. This is the worst time that this could happen," said one student named Cathey.
Housing is reaching out to academic affairs staff to make them aware of the situation ahead of finals.