The Coastal Star

Boca Raton: Boca Bash: Large police presence, short incident list

Boats jam Lake Boca Raton on April 30 during the sixth annual Boca Bash.

Police patrolled access points to limit non-boating traffic.

Among thousands of boaters, authorities reported only two

who were taken to a hospital and a typical number of cuts and bruises.

Photos by Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

By Sallie James

    Thousands of boaters poured into Lake Boca Raton on April 30 for the annual Boca Bash daylong party on the water, creating a sea of wall-to-wall watercraft.
    But this year it was surrounded by a police perimeter.
    While boaters drank, danced and frolicked in the water, police patrolled and blocked almost every access to the lake where stragglers might have tried to launch a kayak or small boat, or slipped into the water with an inner tube. No walk-ins were allowed at Silver Palm Park either, where the number of officers crowding the boat ramp was greater than the number of boaters trying to launch their watercraft.
    At the start of the day, the department’s bus-like Incident Command Center was stationed there, along with three Boca police boats, one Boca Fire-Rescue boat and a Fire-Rescue rehab truck.
    There were police officers in boats, police officers on boat ramps, a police helicopter in the sky and law enforcement officers parked in marked police vehicles at 50-yard intervals around the lake.
    “You would think ISIS is here,” Boca resident Craig Gordon marveled from the top of the Palmetto Park Road bridge as he eyed the police presence at Silver Palm Park. “[Boca Bash] is like the lowest form of human debauchery on the water. Look at all the resources they waste. Why does the city need to give them a playground for this? This has to cost taxpayers money.”
    The event was originally scheduled for April 23 but was rained out. Boca Bash generally takes place at the end of April and is organized informally through a Boca Bash Facebook page.
    For the most part, the day was peaceful, authorities said. Two unresponsive young women were transported to Boca Raton Regional Medical Center in serious condition, and there were minor injuries from some fights that broke out, said Boca Fire-Rescue spokesman Bob Lemons.
    “We had the typical bumps and bruises and lacerations,” Lemons said.
    Boca Fire-Rescue workers also saved the day when it came to an injured dog.
    A boat propeller struck a Labrador retriever, injuring the pooch’s leg. Boca rescue workers bandaged up the dog, called the owner a cab and sent them to a local animal hospital.
    “It went well. As well as can be expected with the fights and the dog,” Lemons said.
    One officer said police were stationed around the lake perimeter to keep people safe. In previous years, people launched boats, Jet Skis or just swam from various docks to the event.
    “I just kicked about 20 kids out,” the officer said, explaining that the teens had planned to enter the water in the 800 block of Lake Drive, where there’s easy access.
    Resident Terry Figel was surprised by the police presence as he walked his dog in the 100 block of Southeast Spanish Trail.
    “I think they are trying to get rid of [the event] because of the problems with the drinking and all the commotion it causes,” Figel said, adding that he didn’t mind the event as long as everyone stayed safe.
    At the Waterstone Resort and Marina, 999 E. Camino Real, valets were demanding $50 from anyone who wanted to park. Boats that tried docking at the marina were being asked to pay $500, a supervisor said.
    Delray Beach resident Samona Rosenberg waited a good 30 minutes near a private dock at the Boca Raton Resort and Club before she snagged a ride out to the festivities. But she barely made it out.
    When a friend’s boat pulled up, a Florida Highway Patrol trooper blocked her from boarding. He changed his mind when she flashed her Boca Raton Resort and Club membership card. The trooper waved her and a friend on, telling them to “be quick.”
    “I thought it would be easier to get out,” Rosenberg said. “For $20 two years ago, a guy ran me out in a dinghy. One year the captain of our boat had a dinghy and ran people back and forth all day and made some good money.”
    Boston native Dick McCabe, a former boat owner, stood on the East Camino Real drawbridge early in the day and watched the incredible parade of boats, yachts, Jet Skis and kayaks streaming toward Lake Boca, some of them spinning sideways in the rough surf.
    One boat nearly struck the drawbridge because it was too tall to pass underneath and had to wait for the spans to lift for more clearance.
    “I would never go out in the mess,” McCabe said, shaking his head.

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