PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - "They ripped the doors off the track, and then they came into this closet area and crowbarred another padlock off this door," said Jeff Conwell, head coach of the Piranha Swim Team.
Conwell was still in shock as he walked us through the team's storage area, which thieves broke into sometime between Saturday morning at 9 a.m., after the team's last practice, and Tuesday at 4 p.m. when the discovery was made.
"It's like a punch in the stomach, it's really hard to understand why someone would want to take stuff used for kids," Conwell said.
Thieves broke through the gate using a crowbar and emptied two storage closets containing more than $5,000 worth of equipment.
"We lost our P.A. system for announcing, 35 stopwatches, cases of soda and water, two printers, and a spiderbox," Conwell said.
A spiderbox is a temporary power box. All the equipment is essential for a meet the team is hosting next weekend for more than 500 swimmers.
Other swim teams have generously stepped forward to lend their P.A. systems and stopwatches for the meet. But the team still needs to find a way to permanently replace the equipment.
"This is stuff that over 50 years we've accumulated and raised funds to purchase through these swim meets," Conwell said.
The team filed a report with the Palm Springs Police Department, which fingerprinted the area. There are no suspects at this time and people with information are urged to come forward and call Palm Springs Police.
Meanwhile Conwell says he won't let this incident drown the team's success at next week's meet.
"We really don't have time to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves, we need to get moving so that next week can happen," he said.
If you'd like to donate to the Piranha Swim Team, e-mail Jeff Conwell at firstname.lastname@example.org.