Tragedy marred the beginning of Atlantic Beach Bikefest and the Memorial Day holiday weekend with more than 10 traffic accidents in which three people were killed.
A moped rider was killed in a hit-and-run accident at 4:20 a.m. Saturday on U.S. 701 South and New Road in Conway. The victim was identified as Terry Allan Morehead, 46, of Conway, according to the coroner’s office.
Police officials say the moped was struck from behind by a burgundy-colored van that left the scene.
A second early morning accident on Saturday claimed the life of 31-year-old Edward Douglas, Jr., a police officer from New Haven, Connecticut, whose motorcycle crashed on Oak Street in Myrtle Beach, police said.
On Friday afternoon, a pedestrian in the Green Seas area was struck by a Ford minivan while crossing a road.
The driver won’t face charges because the pedestrian was illegally crossing the roadway, said Cpl. Sonny Collins with the South Carolina Highway Patrol.
Law enforcement officials across the Grand Strand reported Friday that Bikefest traffic was not as heavy as in previous years, but predicted that would change Saturday night when an influx of day trippers were expected to roll into town.
By early Saturday evening, officials said traffic had picked up considerably.
On Friday, motorcycle traffic was heavier in and around the Atlantic Beach area, the seaside community that bares the bike rally’s name, while automobiles packed Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach.
Bikers filed through the one-lane traffic chute on U.S. 17 to make their annual parade down Atlantic Street, where families and biker club members mingled at vendor stands admiring T-shirts and jewelry.
Festival organizers added new events in Atlantic Beach in the hopes of attracting more festival goers, including concerts every weekend evening.
Atlantic Beach Police Chief Timothy Taylor said Saturday that several thousand people came through the four-block staging area, and many stayed for the evening concert on Friday.
“Last night went good. When we closed down, everyone cooperated and moved out quickly, and that’s what we’re going to continue to do the rest of the week,” Taylor said.
There were no arrests, which Taylor attributed to the family atmosphere, and respect for Atlantic Beach.
“They have respect for me as the chief, they crank up the bikes and pull out. I feel that I have built that in them in my three years as chief of police,” Taylor said.
Asked why so many more bikers appeared to spend more time in Atlantic Beach on Friday, instead of heading straight to Myrtle Beach, he said the concert was a big draw, and he expected another large crowd on Saturday night.
“I think more people just want to come here to Atlantic Beach just to get away from the crowds, and know they are going to have a good time here,” Taylor said.
“They just want to be able to enjoy themselves, and not feel like they are boxed in,” Taylor said.
Traffic did back up along U.S. 17 beginning at Atlantic Beach Friday evening, as hundreds of bikers completed their pilgrimage and headed toward Myrtle Beach.
The 23-mile traffic loop that is intended to keep heavy traffic moving ended up starting late and closing 30 minutes early with few minor issues reported, officials said.
A traffic jam at the Myrtle Beach International Airport was averted because police officials were alerted to a late-arriving flight, which enabled them to direct exiting traffic.
“By no means did we achieve ‘ghost town’ status, but there was an obvious decline in traffic over previous years,” North Myrtle Beach Spokesman Pat Dowling said in a statement. “In hindsight, we saw a foreshadowing of this last year, when traffic declined slightly.”
By early Saturday evening, Horry County law enforcement officials reported an increase in activity along Ocean Boulevard and Atlantic Beach.
The Emergency Operations Center reported 78 ongoing incidents reported countywide, but did not specify whether the incidents involved traffic or crime.
One shooting incident was reported early Saturday morning at the Waffle House in Aynor on U.S. 501, but no injuries were reported.
A police report said that five or six shots were fired from a truck carrying two men as they drove away from the restaurant.
A witness told police that two groups of men had argued inside the restaurant about an incident that happened at a nearby bar.
No suspects were apprehended; however police found spent shell casings in the parking lot.
Early Saturday evening, a stabbing was reported on Harvester Circle in The Farm neighborhood.
Horry County Police are investigating the incident as a domestic disturbance in which a 46-year-old man reportedly was stabbed in the chest and taken to a nearby hospital.