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September 05, 2023

Man used drone to dye swimming pools outside Atlantic City green, police say

Patrick Spina IV, 45, was arrested on Monday for the alleged acts at multiple residences and businesses in Absecon and Galloway townships

Investigations Crime
Green Pools Drone THOMAS PARK/Unsplash

Patrick Spina IV, 45, is charged with criminal mischief for allegedly using a drone to release sea dye into multiple swimming pools in South Jersey this summer. Businesses and homeowners had been complaining to police that their pools' water was turning green.

For weeks, police in communities surrounding Atlantic City were getting unusual calls from people with swimming pools, and the complaints followed a pattern. Water was mysteriously turning "an alarming shade of green."

In Absecon Township, one homeowner called police on Aug. 13 to report that a drone was spotted hovering above a pool on the property. The homeowner witnessed the drone release a substance into the water, which soon took on a neon hue.

Phone calls came from a Quality Inn on White Horse Pike in neighboring Galloway Township. The hotel's pool had turned green multiple times, as far back as June 22. Last Friday, a blue substance was observed floating in the pool shortly before the water again changed colors.

On Monday, Absecon police said they arrested Patrick Spina IV, 45, for allegedly flying his drone to swimming pools and dumping sea dye in them. The chemical is often used by rescue crews to mark areas in the ocean for searching.

Police said Spina had been "terrorizing" businesses and residents, but didn't say how many pools were affected. It's unclear whether the affected pools were targeted for specific reasons, though police believe the actions were pranks. Spina is the owner of Comfort Solutions Heating and Cooling, a small business based near the Quality Inn in Galloway.

Sandra Woolstion, the general manager of the Quality Inn, told The New York Times she had reviewed security footage multiple times to try to figure out what was happening to the pool. Seeing nothing on the tape, she finally told police she thought a drone was involved.

“You might be on to something,” Galloway Township detective Jason Kiamos reportedly told her.

Authorities in Absecon and Galloway townships worked with New Jersey State Police and the Federal Aviation Administration to investigate whether a drone was behind the incidents at the hotel. They detected the movements of a drone last Friday and followed it back to Spina's business, where he was taken into custody.

Woolstion said dealing with the sea dye was more than an inconvenience. She estimated the pool closures cost the hotel $20,000 over the course of the summer as she repeatedly had to drain the water, wash the pool and fill it back up, and because the pool closures caused stay cancellations.

Once Spina was arrested, police reportedly called Woolstion to let her know her nightmare was over.

“I said, ‘thank you, God,’” Woolstion told The New York Times. “I can breathe now.”

Spina has been charged with multiple counts of criminal mischief. He was released after his arrest pending court proceedings.

Any residents or businesses whose pools may have been affected under similar circumstances can contact police to share information.