Gage Hoase’s car rests in a ditch beside Blacktip Island’s booby pond following the second road rage incident Wednesday, the small Caribbean island’s first day of deconfinement. (staff photo by Wendy Beaufort)
The end of Blacktip Island residents’ COVID-19-related stay-at-home order Wednesday was marked by a steep uptick in road rage incidents, community leaders said.
“Everyone’s on edge, being cooped up for so long,” said Kay Valve, Sandy Bottoms’ Beach Resort general manager. “It was the first chance people had to get out and drive around, and, well, some of them got a little over enthusiatic. If confinement brought out the best in people, deconfinement brought out the worst in some.
“It started with B.C. Flote and Doc Plank yelling at each other after they nearly crashed vehicles in the car park,” Valve said. “Then B.C. started waving a machete and things turned ugly. Nothing would’ve come of it, but it happened right outside the lobby, where God-and-everyone could see it.”
Authorities were quick to de-escalate the situation.
“I took away B.C.’s machete, then made them drive off—slowly—in opposite directions,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “Gave them both official citations, too, so they’ll have to explain themselves in court. Everyone needs to know we won’t stand for this kind of hooliganism. I’m clamping down, hard, before it gets out of control.
“I was still cautioning them when word came about ‘Tonio Fletcher and Gage Hoase going at it at the east coast intersection,” Marquette said. “Two roads on the island, and only a handful of cars out, and those two knuckleheads managed to have a wreck and a fistfight. They’ll be going to court, too. They’re lucky they’re not in the jail.”
Witnesses say the second incident also resulted from a traffic gaffe.
“Gage rolled the stop sign and cut ‘Tonio off,” Jessie Catahoula said. “‘Tonio chased him down and ran him into the booby pond. It was actually pretty funny to watch, especially them going at it hammer and tongs in the bushes after. Rafe didn’t think so, though.
“I guess for two months people haven’t really had access to cars, so their skills slipped,” Catahoula said. “Or they couldn’t wait to make up for lost time. We’re all happy to be able to drive again. Hell, everyone’s speeding and joy riding.”
Many residents questioned the constable’s get-tough response.
“I get why Rafe wants to stop this stuff before it gets out of hand, but this’s Blacktip. Things work themselves out,” Lucille Ray said. “Once people blow off some steam, things’ll go back to normal. Or as normal as it gets on this island.
“Rafe citing people left and right’ll just make things worse,” Ray said. “Thing is, with a citation issued, they have to go to court over on Tiperon, but we’re still not allowed to leave the island. Gut feeling is Rafe’ll drop charges when travel opens back up. He’s just blowing of some post-confinement steam, too.”
Marquette would neither confirm nor deny Ray’s theory, though he did issue citations to the Blacktip Times reporter and photographer covering this story.