Officials at an island near Savannah have vowed to stop future so-called Orange Crush parties – after a shooting at the annual weekend beach festival left one injured on Saturday.
Attracting mainly college age people, the Orange Crush annual weekend party has been going on for about 25 years on the beach at Tybee Island.
The festivities took a violent turn Saturday. Tybee Island Mayor Jason Buelterman confirmed several shots were fired near the island’s pier. One person was hit in the arm and transported to the hospital for treatment.
A video obtained by WSAV-TV shows a gun being held and shots being fired with a woman screaming and yelling “Oh my God!”
The weekend party features drinking, Twerking contests on top of cars and has left the beach trashed in the past. There were more than 2 dozen arrests this past weekend, in addition to the shooting, the Savannah Morning News reported.
“After approximately 25 years, we have reached a tipping point and going forward will be doing everything in our power to put an end to this event,” Mayor Buelterman and city council members said in a statement Monday.
After the shooting Saturday, crowds ran to the parking lot, though many others continued to party. Mayor Buelterman said the beach was cleared soon after the incident.
A man who was working at the Marine Science Center said he witnessed what happened.
“I heard three shots and then everybody started running down the ramps away from the gunfire. Everything was fine and then it wasn’t – apparently gunfire does that to people,” said witness John Hemphill.
The mayor said the arrest of a possible suspect tied up traffic on Highway 80 near Fort Pulaski.
Here is the full statement from Tybee Island city leaders:
“‘The City of Tybee Island would like to thank the officers from our own Police Department and from all of our law enforcement partner agencies for their dedication to protecting our community during this past weekend. The willingness to risk their personal safety for the sake of others is worthy of our sincerest appreciation. We also would like to commend our volunteer fire fighters for all of their support as well as our City employees and all of the volunteers who cleaned the beach.
While the majority of attendees behaved responsibly, the risks to public safety posed by such large groups of young people under no responsible supervision have become unacceptable.
After approximately twenty five years, we have reached a tipping point and going forward will be doing everything in our power to put an end to this event while, of course, maintaining a public beach for everyone. In order to prevent a recurrence of the island-wide threat to public safety that occurred this weekend, the City will be creating a task force of local and state officials as well as local residents and business owners whose charge will be to make specific recommendations that could include banning of alcohol on the beach during such events, enlisting an even heavier law enforcement presence, utilizing solutions developed by other beach communities that are faced with similar challenges, and other possible solutions. We will also work with our partners at the federal level to seek their input and assistance.
We look forward to working with our community and our partners at all levels of government to address this challenge in a responsible manner.
Finally, we are keeping the victim of Saturday’s gun violence in our thoughts and prayers and hope that he has a speedy recovery.”