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Heater malfunction mistaken for gunfire at NC school

HAMPSTEAD, N.C. (AP) — A county official says reports of an active shooter at a school in North Carolina on Friday turned out to be a malfunctioning water heater.

Pender County Emergency Management Director Tom Collins told The Star-News that noise from the water heater was taken for the sound of gunfire at Topsail High School on Friday morning.

“There’s no active shooter,” Collins said. “It’s a malfunctioning water heater.”

The earlier report of shots fired provoked a massive response by law enforcement and caused the school district to reroute buses and put schools on lockdown.

“Law enforcement responded immediately and it has been determined there is no shooter and no weapon,” Pender County schools said via its Twitter account.

“Pender County Schools is thankful everyone is safe and thanks local emergency services for its immediate response,” the district said. Topsail High, Topsail Middle, and Topsail Elementary remain on lockdown.

The school district added that the report of an active shooter came after “noises were heard coming from the top of the building.”

Capt. James Rowell of the Pender County Sheriff’s Office was quoted by WTVD-TV as saying that deputies swept the school but found no evidence that any shots had been fired.

He said deputies did find an HVAC unit that was malfunctioning and making sounds similar to gunshots.

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