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Steam Tunneling at UVA Leads to Near Arrests

By: Hailey Frances Email
By: Hailey Frances Email

May 8, 2009

Early Friday morning, a few people decided to take a dip in a local pool. But there's a problem; They went to swim at the AFC pool on grounds when the facility was closed, and the trespassers had no clothes on.

The skinny dippers swam with no lifeguards before the building was even open, at around 5:30 am Friday.

It's bringing up the issue of how the students got inside the pool in the first place. University of Virginia Police say they likely got in and out of the building through a series of underground steam tunnels.

Early morning skinny dippers slipped past a heavy alarm system, stripped down, dove in, and scrammed when they were spotted just before the pool's opening. No one got caught.

But it's no joke to the UVA Police officers who responded.

"Our biggest concern really is the health and well being of those people that came in," says a UVA Police officer. "It may seem like a harmless prank, but the lifeguard staff are not on duty."

Police say those break-in artists didn't pick the locks. They maneuvered their way through steam tunnels that surround grounds.

"A lot of people go into the [football] stadium. You can get into the chem buildings," says Katie Durkin, a UVA 3rd year student.

"Steam tunneling...go down in tunnels, walk around. It's exciting. You feel like a ninja turtle," says Colleen Wolfe, a graduating 4th year student.

Gaining access to the AFC after hours through steam tunnels may not seem public knowledge, but it is. There's a website.

Google search "The Bold and the Ruthless" and you'll find the holy grail of steam tunneling. A mapping and charting system to get students underground after hours.

But if you're caught, UVA police says it could mean students could face criminal charges and expulsion. Something the early morning skinny dippers narrowly escaped.

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