Some of the emergency signaling pyrotechnics seized by Blacktip Island police after Thursday night’s signal-flare shootout. (photo courtesy of Raphael Marquette)
A flare gun battle between two Blacktip Island Unity Day dock parties, celebrating the island’s varied cultures living peacefully together, resulted in three arrests, fourteen injuries and the confiscation of all flares and flare pistols Thursday night.
“It started as good holiday fun,” said Clete Horn, whose eyebrows were scorched off in the melee. “We had country music playing on our dock, the Sand Spit Bar had reggae blasting on theirs, and people were hollering back and forth at one another.
“Each party had its own fireworks show, and they started at the same time,” Horn said. ‘Next thing you know, folks were adding their own fireworks, trying to outdo the other dock.”
Police say the situation escalated quickly.
“First it was bottle rockets being fired dock-to-dock, then Roman candles,” said Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette. “Next thing we knew, people had broken out emergency signal pistols and were blazing away.
“At one point party-goers were swimming out to moored dive boats to rearm themselves with nautical flares,” Marquette said. “They were even firing those big parachute flares to see their targets better.”
The island’s medical clinic was overwhelmed by the injuries.
“I’m not set up for something on this scale,” island nurse Marissa Wrasse said. “There were so many burns, I ran out of unguent. I had to grab mayonnaise from the ‘fridge and slather that on burns.
“Ran out of that, too, by the end,” Wrasse said. “Dermott Bottoms took a direct hit right down the back of his shorts. You have no idea the size of Dermott Bottoms’ bottom.”
Authorities confiscated all incendiaries to prevent further violence, a move that angered some locals.
“It’s not safe, Rafe leaving us with nothing but survival mirrors,” boat captain Marina DeLow said. “What if we have an emergency and need to signal for help?”
The police, however, remained adamant.
“Damn right I seized all the flares,” Marquette said. “These yobbos were even throwing smoke canisters and orange dye markers at each other.
“This is why they can’t have nice things,” Marquette said. “Until they learn how to use pyrotechnics responsibly, they’ll just have to jump up and down and waive their arms if there’s an emergency.”
Unity Day organizers, meanwhile, have scheduled an alcohol-free follow-up celebration Friday evening they hope will bring the island community back together.
“We figured we’d get everyone in one place, then sit down and talk things out,” Unity Day committee chair Kay Valve said. “Of course, Dermott’ll have to stand, but that’ll be a reminder why this is so important.”