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At least 2 killed in Wildwood during ‘hectic’ pop-up H2oi car rally, mayor says

Wildwood Mayor Pete Byron on Sunday said at least two people were killed following a pop-up car rally in the city.

Byron said the incident occurred Saturday night during a string of car crashes related to an “unsanctioned” car meet-up event known as H2oi or, H20i, or H2022.

“It’s been a pretty hectic last 24, 48 hours and I do not have any more information right now besides these two unfortunate deaths,” Byron told NJ Advance Media midday Sunday. “They were in a golf cart but I don’t believe they were (in the rally).”

Byron said additional information on the identities of those killed or the nature of the crash that led to their deaths was not currently available. The mayor added that the deaths, as well as the pop-up car rally, are still under investigation.

He said Sunday at 12:45 p.m. that while it was still “too premature” to release more details, additional information will likely be available soon.

Videos on several social media sites out of Wildwood Saturday night show modified vehicles revving their engines and peeling out at traffic lights as onlookers crowd into the streets to watch, cheer them on and record with their cell phones.

Multiple videos taken at different angles on Rio Grande Avenue show a car speeding through an intersection before crashing into another vehicle and then losing control and hitting a low-speed vehicle, similar to a golf cart, knocking some of its passengers from the vehicle.

Low-speed vehicles often have additional safety features like seat belts, are allowed under state law as long as they meet the requirements, which include having them registered with the state and travel on 25 mph roads. It’s not clear if this vehicle met those requirements.

Saturday’s crowd wasn’t the first, however. Hundreds of people also showed up at Lowe’s parking lot in Middle Township on Friday night. Mayor Tim Donahue said in a statement that after that gathering, the township was prepared on Saturday by putting police at key parking lots in the 72-square-mile town until 4 a.m. However, it’s unclear if any of the crowds appeared in Middle Township on Saturday.

“There is much to still be learned about the reckless chaos that has descended about our streets this weekend,” Donahue said in a statement.” Believe me, a thorough investigation is underway and there will be criminal charges brought and the organizers of this lawless mayhem will be held accountable.

“We pray for the families of those who were senselessly killed and maimed in the chaos overnight in Wildwood. The scenes are horrifying.”

A large crowd gathers in the parking lot of Lowe’s in Rio Grande on Friday night. Photo provided by DansDroneShots609.

In a statement early Sunday morning, officials said Byron has “been monitoring the unsanctioned H2oi/H2022 event all weekend’’ and he spoke directly to Gov. Phil Murphy regarding the situation and Saturday night.

The gathering was previously held in Ocean City, Maryland, where authorities faced speeding cars, crashes and large crowds.

In addition to the New Jersey State Police and police from Wildwood’s three departments, units from Cape May, Atlantic City and Ocean City responded to calls Saturday night, authorities said.

“Every available police officer and fire patrol was called in, and despite being grossly outmanned, are doing a great job as dispatch works extremely hard to keep up with the calls,” the Wildwood board of commissioners said in its statement.

Wildwood police Chief Robert Regalbuto said Friday he was aware of the potential of a pop-up car rally taking place in the city, vowing to have extra personnel on duty if participants decided “not comply with state laws and municipal ordinances. He said officers would have a “zero tolerance” policy toward traffic violations.

Reporters Keith Sargeant and Adam Clark contributed to this report.

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