Crash Kills 2 During Unsanctioned H2Oi Tuner Car Spin-Off Event
H2Oi has long been notorious for reckless driving. The latest unsanctioned event in New Jersey turned deadly.
Two people were killed in a crash Saturday evening during an unsanctioned car meet in Wildwood, New Jersey. Once notorious as "the most ticketed car show" in the United States, H2Oi—short for H2O International—has been known for reckless driving for years. Law enforcement in the original show's home of Ocean City, Maryland, has cracked down so hard that it's resulted in fewer official meetups on the East Coast, and this event in Wildwood was allegedly an unofficial spinoff. To those familiar with the show's history, this recent fatal crash sadly felt like it was only a matter of time.
At approximately 9:36 p.m. ET, a 37-year-old person crashed their 2003 Infiniti into a 2014 Honda Civic before striking two pedestrians, the Cape May County Prosecutor's Office told WPVI. The Infiniti driver attempted to flee the scene but was later arrested by police and was charged with two counts of death by auto, two counts of assault by auto, one count of eluding, one count of leaving the scene of an accident, and one count of violation of laws to protect public safety, reports NJ.com.
Two died following the crash: Lindsay Weakland, 18, and Timothy Ogden, 34. Weakland was one of the pedestrians who was struck, and she was pronounced dead at the scene. Ogden was the passenger of the Civic and died of his injuries after being taken to a hospital in nearby Atlantic City. Ogden's family told WPVI that he and his fiance were coming from the Irish Fall Festival, a completely unrelated event, when they were hit by the Infiniti.
While any death is tragic, this is sadly unsurprising. H2Oi's official website still touts its roots as a "laid back" event for watercooled Volkswagen and Audi vehicles that started in the 1990s, but the meet itself has been anything but for the past decade or so. The event started as a watercooled-centric car show, fully sanctioned and above-board, that hosted some of the lowest and flashiest Volkswagen Group cars out there. It was a pretty normal event held just outside Ocean City, at Ford Whaley Campground, complete with awards for the best show cars.
Yet, over the years, the event started to attract all makes of cars and birthed a parallel, unsanctioned meet in Ocean City proper. A rift grew between folks who wanted to keep it a VW event and those who wanted to open it up even further, into a bigger, all-makes event. The atmosphere was still welcoming and it was still one of the top watercooled shows in the nation, but the crowds at the unofficial meets in Ocean City were growing out of control. H2Oi officials never sanctioned these outside meets, yet the name stuck with them.
Ocean City cracked down hard in response to the chaos. Many show cars already ran afoul of Maryland vehicle safety standards, and too-low-to-pass stance was a hit among the H2Oi crowd. Burnouts and other stunts became commonplace. Some attendees even wanted the notoriety of getting an H2Oi-weekend ticket, Jalopnik noted.
The official H2Oi event is no more, and the original H2Oi show organizers have nothing to do with this latest meet in Wildwood. The show was canceled in 2017 over what organizers described as "changes in venue options," and reemerged in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in 2018.
That new home didn't last long, as the last official H20i show happened in 2019. The show's official website appears to have been hacked, as the blog section is full of information about sex toys. The Drive attempted to call the last listed phone number for the show's organizers for comment, but the number had been disconnected.
One issue is that a sizable number of H2Oi attendees didn't move with the show. For a few years, people kept flocking to unofficial meets in Ocean City despite the official show moving out of town. However, Ocean City's crackdown appears to have finally worked to drive H2Oi's unofficial meet out of town this year. Some cars met in Ocean City last weekend anyway, WRDE reports, but the city had enacted a "special event zone" that lowered speed limits and increased penalties that pushed most of the meet to Wildwood instead.
Posts for this year's event on a Facebook group called "H2oi wildwood 2022" openly advertised burnout pits on public roads. Videos from the meet show attendees taking over intersections to do burnouts and donuts, along with the usual clips of more burnouts, street racing, and reckless driving.
As such, Wildwood officials tried to prepare as much as they could for the meet, which they deemed an unsanctioned event. Wildwood increased policing starting on Friday of the event, calling in state police and police from nearby towns to help, WPVI reports. The George Redding Bridge into the town was briefly closed to try to get control of the situation, but police were still overwhelmed by what they described on Facebook as "hundreds, if not thousands of people driving high-performance vehicles." Crowds of attendees—many of whom already have a negative view of law enforcement from crackdowns at prior meets—were enough to overwhelm police and make it difficult for them to get through.
Police told WPVI that additional charges may be filed based on other videos they are reviewing of reckless driving at the event. The fatal crash was not the only one. Another attendee lost control after launching at a stop light and clipping the car next to it, hitting a golf cart in the process and seriously injuring one man who was tossed from the cart, according to a GoFundMe started by a relative. The two cars that collided in the incident appeared to be racing each other, as spectators were loudly placing bets in footage of the incident posted to social media seen by The Drive.
Wildwood Mayor Pete Byron has already said that this will be the last year for H2Oi—unofficial or not—in his city, vowing to call in the National Guard if needed. "They won't be back next year," Byron told Fox 29. "I can look you in the eye and say it won't happen."
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UPDATE [Monday, Sept. 26, 2022, 5:04 p.m. ET]: This post has been updated with additional information on the H2Oi show's history above.