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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Burst pipe causes flooding, evacuation during trial at county courthouse

BRENTWOOD – A burst water pipe caused the flooding, evacuation and closure of the Rockingham County Superior Court Thursday.

Rockingham County Attorney Jim Reams said a “major” water pipe burst on the third floor of the court at about noon Thursday when water flooded down to the basement level for a half hour before it was shut off. Fire alarms were pulled to evacuate the building and about 100 people stood in the parking lot before the court was declared closed for the day, he said.

Most of the damage, said Reams, occurred in the court clerk's office where records are kept in paper, not electronic, format.

“There was a lot of water,” he said.

The county attorney said damage to his office and the registry of deeds was not as bad as in the clerk's office. A cleaning crew is expected to work through the night and the court will reopen Friday, Reams said.

At the time the pipe burst, a trial was under way for Craig O'Brien, 48, of Eliot, Maine, for a charge alleging he threatened a witness at Portsmouth District Court. Reams said the trial was expected to resume Friday.

O'Brien is alleged to have threatened a witness in a District Court hallway on August 17, 2010 when he was there for trial on two counts of disorderly conduct. O'Brien has been charged multiple times locally for his behavior while jogging. He is also barred by the District Court from coming to Portsmouth, but is appealing that ban to the state Supreme Court.

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