In July of 1968,
there were 3 separate incidents of a fire at the station - July 6, 7, and 13,
all of which originated in various parts of the primary transmitter. The first
fire knocked WGLI off the air for 8 hours, the 2nd one had the station down for
13 hours, and the 3rd caused a 9-hour shutdown. WGLI broadcast
Mets baseball games, and the July 6 incident created a quandary for
listeners who were following the
Mets-Vs-Phillies game and hadn't learned the outcome when the station
went down (the
Total damage from the 3 blazes caused anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000, and apparently nearly totaled the primary transmitter. Further, according to newspaper accounts, the station lost approx. $50,000 to $70,000 in advertising revenue.
After the 3rd fire, station officials became suspicious and an investigation was launched. Long before July was out, Suffolk County detectives Anthony Mancarusco and Anthony Gafney determined that the 3 fires were intentionally set by an 18-year-old male "engineer" who had been hired on May 11 of '68, and had been working in the building either alone, or with only one other employee, at the time of the fires. The boy was later arrested at his home and charged with criminal mischief, a felony.
The boy, who had just graduated from nearby West Islip High School, admitted to setting the fires, but refused to say why. He later changed his story, claiming he was innocent, and that a "power surge" from the electric utility caused the fires.
This multiple-fire fiasco made the local newspapers (Newsday and the Long Island Press), resulting in 4 separate stories being printed by July 18. The last 3 articles were very specific, even giving the boy's full name, description, and his home address.
By the time the legal dust had settled on the matter pertaining to the fires and criminal charges, the boy in question had been found guilty of criminal mischief, sentenced to 2 or 3 years probation (ultimately, this occurred after an appeal, filed by his parents, was unsuccessful), and his First-Class FCC license was suspended for 6 months.
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