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Arson suspected in water-park clubhouse fire

Posted December 18, 2008

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— Investigators suspect a fire that destroyed the clubhouse at Fantasy Lake Water Park early Thursday was set, the park owner said.

Marjorie Turner said arson investigators told her it appeared a truck parked near the end of the building where various chemicals were stored had been set ablaze, and the fire quickly spread through the 10,000-square-foot clubhouse.

"The entire building is gone," said Turner, who bought the water park with her husband, James, in 2005, after spending her childhood summers playing and swimming there.

The Turners said a neighbor called them about the fire. The woman said her dog's barking woke her up, and she saw the flames, according to the Turners.

"There were flames coming out of the roof already, and all I could do was stare in disbelief," Marjorie Turner said. "It's just devastation. It doesn't even seem real."

Authorities found the building, at 5869 Permastone Lake Road, burning when they responded to a security alarm that went off in the clubhouse at about 1 a.m.

"The conditions were too dangerous to go in the building. We had to say on the outside," said Freddie Johnson Jr., a firefighter with the Stoney Point Fire Department.

About 15 fire crews from Cumberland County, Hoke County and Fayetteville responded to the four-alarm fire. Firefighters had difficulty pumping water from the lake and nearby hydrants, so they had to truck water in from another source, authorities said.

The clubhouse contained an arcade, pool room, gift shop, restaurant, offices and mechanic's shop, the Turners said.

Last year, the couple added paddle boats as the newest attraction. All but six of the boats burned in the fire, but nearby water slides and "Tarzan swings" weren't damaged.

"This is a safe place for families and kids to come, so I'm sure they'll be upset," Marjorie Turner said as she wiped away tears.

Debbie Jones said her teenage son practically lived at the water park.

"It's devastating. They created a safe place here in the town of Hope Mills for the kids, and right now, it's gone," Jones said.

The Turners don't have any insurance, but they plan to rebuild in time to open next summer. Marjorie Turner said her father and brother are contractors and will assist in the rebuilding.

Almost 100,000 people visit Fantasy Lake Water Park each summer, and the park employs about 90 teens.

"This is the blood, sweat and tears – everything that we've worked for every single day from April to September," Marjorie Turner said. "Every day we're here, sometimes up to 16 hours a day. It's priceless."


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  • Chuck Fina Dec 18, 2008

    "Thank God it did not spread to the lake"- Firefox

    I don't think anything could have stopped it after that.

  • pwilliamson53 Dec 18, 2008

    According to previous reports, they did have insuarance, but wasn't sure if would cover all the damages. Hopefully the first report is correct and they can rebuild the dreams. Sounds like alot of people enjoyed and went often. May dreams be rebuilt for all to enjoy again.

  • wife-of-a-concrete-man Dec 18, 2008

    my daughter actually texted me from school this morning when she found this out, she was really upset, as she spends the majority of her summers at the lake.

  • wife-of-a-concrete-man Dec 18, 2008

    this mornings first story quoted marjorie turner as saying they did in fact have insurance but was not sure it would cover ALL damage.

    maybe WRAL is confused, AGAIN...

  • Adelinthe Dec 18, 2008

    Had no insurance?

    Thanking God no one was hurt.

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

  • scarletindurham Dec 18, 2008

    it's not very smart not to have any insurance....

  • pulstar40 Dec 18, 2008

    Obviously it's not insurance fraud if they didn't have insurance. But I was wondering, how in the word does a WATER park, not have insurance? Unless they only had it for personal liability and not property damage...

  • sayitoutloud Dec 18, 2008

    james1077; How can it be insurance fraud if they didnt have any insurance?
    Why wouldnt you have insurance on a place that is your lively hood?

  • cornfused Dec 18, 2008

    I know from personal experience that losing a business from a fire can be devestating. It may not be their home, but it is their livelyhood. And now they have to deal with the insurance and rebuilding process...much less the speculation of insurance fraud. Although it was joked abot earlier, I am sure it has been mentioned!! I wish them good luck and a speedy turn around!!

  • UNCalumnus Dec 18, 2008

    It sounds like a neat place. Hopefully they will rebuild it better than ever. I'd like to visit when they do.