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Teen explains origins of mystery piano

By Josh Levs, CNN
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Teen explains origins of mystery piano
  • NEW: Authorities say they don't plan charges and want to work with the family
  • A teenager tells a CNN affiliate he is behind the piano on the sandbar
  • An alleged filmmaker who claimed he was behind it is reportedly a "prankster"
  • Dumping things into Biscayne Bay is illegal

For more on this story, go to CNN affliate WPLG

(CNN) -- Authorities have no immediate plans to charge the teenager who admitted to hauling a piano out onto a sandbar in Biscayne Bay in south Florida.

Luis Espinoza, spokesman for Miami-Dade County's Department of Environmental Resources Management, told CNN his agency is hoping to coordinate with the family to have the piano removed.

"We're trying to work with them, contact them and ask them to please go out there and do the right thing," Espinoza told CNN Thursday.

"Obviously, they created a situation by dumping debris. This could be a felony."

As of Thursday morning, when Espinoza spoke with CNN, his department had not yet heard back from the family, he said.

Marooned piano

Nicholas Harrington, 16, told CNN affiliate WPLG that he was behind the mystery, with a little help from his friends.

"I liked the idea of an anonymous piano out there, no explanation to it," he said, adding that he viewed it as art for a portfolio in a future college application.

Harrington shared with the station home video from before the holidays, when he and his father moved the baby grand piano from his grandmother's house to his, on a boat.

Weeks later, after purposely setting the piano on fire at a party, he, his father, and two of his friends decided to place it out on the sandbar, WPLG reported. "It was a solid surface. It wouldn't float away," Harrington told the station.

The Interscholastic Sailing Association website lists Harrington as a sailing team captain at his high school, the Maritime and Science Technology Academy.

Harrington said he decided to come forward after someone else claimed responsibility for placing the piano on the sandbar. William Yeager said he is a filmmaker with a "controversial" film trilogy coming out, and that he and a fellow filmmaker have placed pianos in various cities.

The Miami Herald reports Yeager is a "well known prankster" who "years ago painted himself black and convinced many in the media he was Jimi Hendrix's long-lost son."

Jorge Pino of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission told CNN that for his agency "it would be highly unlikely that we would cite this young man for anything." The agency "would probably write him a warning and make sure that he understands that that could be construed as littering, obviously. It's not the right thing to do."

Pino added, "It's in his best interest to drive the same boat that he drove out there before and load that damn thing onto his boat and bring it back to his garage."

"The kid seems to be just an 'artiste,'" Pino said. "One man's art is another man's trash."

The piano caught worldwide attention, with its perch on the sandbar quickly being dubbed a "piano bar."

Before Harrington stepped forward, authorities told CNN they had no plans to remove it. "What will probably happen is that the piano will just disintegrate because of the salt water and the salt air," Pino said Wednesday, adding that it will not harm the wildlife.

The finding struck a chord with residents and tourists, inspiring some to board their boats and check it out. But those who hoped to perform a concerto were in for disappointment. "This piano's so banged up you can't even bang out any tunes on it," reported Andre Hepkins of CNN affiliate WSVN, as he stood on the sandbar attempting to tickle the ivories.

Blogs had a field day. One at the Miami New Times website offered explanations such as "The Little Mermaid was not a work of fiction" and "the powers that be are trying new tricks to get your attention about the end of the world."

Harrington told WPLG that about 100 people attended a party at his home on New Years' Eve. Using sparklers, he, along with friends and family, set the piano on fire, he said. "It looked great. We took some great photos of it," Harrington said, adding that he's been trying to "build up my art portfolio."

He said that on January 2, he, his father, and two of his friends brought the piano out to the sandbar, WPLG reported.

The teenager said he had no plans to come forward, but after Yeager's claim of responsibility, he decided to. "That's just not right," Harrington told WPLG. "But what people would do for publicity, who knows."

The Harrington family did not immediately return a phone a call from CNN Thursday.

Biscayne Bay is home to commerce and tourism. The National Park Service describes it as "a shallow estuary, a place where freshwater from the land mixes with salt water from the sea and life abounds. It serves as a nursery where infant and juvenile marine life reside."

"It's quite a preserve," Espinoza said Thursday. "We don't recommend for anyone to try to copycat this -- because it does litter our bay, our ecosystem."

The piano is not the first item to litter the waters. "There's odd things in the water all the time -- shopping carts and tires and all kinds of stuff that people just decide to dump out there," Pino said.

"We know of a car... that somebody years ago dumped into the water, and the vehicle stayed there. And, as it turns out, the vehicle is quite the habitat for lobster now."