2 Killed, Others Injured at Unsanctioned Wildwood Car Rally; Driver Charged

NBC Universal, Inc.

Two people were killed and another was seriously injured during an unsanctioned car rally that wreaked havoc across in Wildwood, New Jersey over the weekend, according to the Cape May County Prosecutor's Office.

Gerald J. White, 37, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has been arrested and charged in connection with the deadly Saturday night crash, the prosecutor's office said.

White's 2003 Infiniti was at a "standing stop" before authorities said it took off and hit at least one vehicle and pedestrians.

“I saw this car speeding, zooming so fast. In the blink of an eye, he was gone before I even saw the whole car, and within three seconds I heard the crash," Eileen Robinson recalled.

The prosecutor's office said it was around 9:30 p.m. at Burk and Atlantic avenues when White first struck a 2014 Honda Civic, then two pedestrians. White had tried to leave the scene amid the chaos of the H2Oi event, but was quickly caught and arrested, the office said.

The passenger in the Honda Civic, 34-year-old Timothy Ogden of Clayton, New Jersey, was rushed to Atlantic City Medical Center but authorities said he died a short time later.

“Tim was always a caring, fun person to be around and our family is heart broken and devastated," his relatives said in a statement. "He was the kind of person that could make anyone laugh.“ 

Photo of 34-year-old Tim Ogden provided by family.

"Timothy was attending the Irish festival and was not a participant in this H2Oi event," loved ones said on a GoFundMe site. "Timothy’s entire family is absolutely heartbroken."

One of the pedestrians, 18-year-old Lindsay Weakland of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, died at the scene, the prosecutor's office stated.

A third victim remained in the trauma unit after she suffered injuries in the crash, family members told NBC10.

Prosecutors said White was charged with two counts of second-degree Death by Auto, a count of second-degree Eluding, and nearly a dozen other related charges.

White was being held in the Cape May County Correctional Facility pending court proceedings. Other charges may be added, officials said.

A South Jersey family was in mourning Monday as they remember 34-year-old Tim Ogden, one of the victims from an unsanctioned car rally that turned deadly in Wildwood, New Jersey on Saturday. NBC10’s Karen Hua spoke to his parents about how he will be remembered.

"We called the police," said Mary Sclafani, who was visiting Wildwood. "They barricaded the street, and the people just took the barricades and threw them. It was totally havoc, I was worried for the police."

A second crash occurred involving a golf cart with injuries, but additional details were unavailable Sunday afternoon, the prosecutor's office said.

"Make no mistake that the tragic and dangerous events over the last several days in Wildwood, Rio Grande, Seaville and surrounding communities are a direct result of the organizers of a pop-up car rally self-identified as H2Oi or H2O22," Cape May County Prosecutor Jeffrey Sutherland said in a release. "Directing hundreds if not thousands of people driving high performance vehicles to an area without any planning, staging or permitting created the chaos that
led to these deaths and injuries."

Videos posted on social media depict people hanging out of cars as drivers spin in circles surrounded by a large crowd in the city, as well as burnouts, racing, drifting and crashes. 

Damage to storefronts and downed traffic meters could be observed Sunday morning during cleanup efforts.

“The cars were outrageous, speeding up and down the streets, the noise was unbelievable,” Angel Fioravanti told NBC10. “It was scary because I saw people trying to walk off the sidewalk onto the street, and cars were … weaving in and out of the traffic, revving their engines, the noise was atrocious. It really was.” 

Around 9:35 p.m. Sunday, George Redding Bridge was closed to inbound traffic due to the unsanctioned event.

“[It was] dangerous. I had to go home,” Wildwood resident Michael Mercaldo told NBC10. “I spend these whole weekends out.”

City officials knew the unsanctioned event was coming to town, having issued an advisory days ago. Wildwood police also said it was aware of the unauthorized event and would have extra personnel on duty.

"The police did do their due diligence and they were under the game plan that the state police had given to us," Wildwood Mayor Pete Bryon said Sunday. "They were just outnumbered.”

The Wildwood Police Department also maintains a zero-tolerance policy regarding careless and reckless driving, Wildwood Police Chief Robert Regalbuto said in a statement, adding that violations of the policy may result in impounded vehicles.

County prosecutor Sutherland added, "Anyone thinking of engaging in organizing any type of similar pop-up event is forewarned that there will be a swift and appropriate law enforcement and legal response."

On Monday, the city of Wildwood shared a statement expressing both gratitude and condolences.

"Our gratitude goes out to every first responder on the scene. All personnel of the City of Wildwood Police Department and City of Wildwood Fire Department, along with the dispatchers, worked around the clock to respond to every call," the statement reads. It goes on to say the Wildwoods' police and fire departments responded to hundreds of calls.

"We are heartbroken for their families, friends and colleagues," Wildwood officials said. "We will work jointly with our neighboring communities to further prevent any unsanctioned event like H2oi from ever occurring in our region again."

Contact Us