TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (WTOC) - A Tybee police officer drove an all terrain vehicle on uncharted marshes Friday afternoon leading to vehicle after vehicle getting stuck in a sensitive beach environment. The Department of Natural Resources is investigating as the incident potentially impacts tides and ruins wildlife habitats.
If you walked near the Tybee Island north end Monday, you would have seen a strange sight. Two vehicles remain stuck in federally protected marshlands. Dakotah Howard saw the pictures on Facebook and went down to see it for herself.
“I can’t believe how far it is. I thought it was just going to be this section here, but it’s pretty far out," Howard said. "I usually don’t see people down in that area.”
Tybee city crews were out near the stranded vehicles Monday morning, successfully removing the ATV that started this entire ordeal. City Manager Shawn Gillen said a Tybee police officer accidentally got stuck while driving a beach patrol ATV on Friday around 12:30 p.m.
“I don’t think they knew what they were getting into,” Gillen said.
The Department of Natural Resources said the ATV was in an area under the jurisdiction of the Georgia Coastal Marshlands Protection Act. As the city of Tybee works with DNR to create a removal plan for these stuck vehicles, bigger problems are looming.
“These are environmental containment booms. They absorb or contain any oil or fuel leakage out of there," Gillen said. "Our team has been going out daily to monitor the fuel tanks and oil tanks.”
Six-year resident Dakotah Howard said the environmental impact is a major concern for the residents of Tybee.
“Of course, if a vehicle gets stuck in the water it could harm our wildlife. There’s a lot of turtles nest in this area and probably in that section actually. This is super important here,” Howard said.
The three vehicles owned by the city are ruined and will need to be replaced. Along with the DNR’s investigation, the city says they are investigating internally after city staff were notified six hours after the first vehicle got stuck.
"I think there was too much of a delay, so we will go back and figure all of that out. That will play into our decision on the personnel. It's definitely going to be a learning lesson for all of our people."
The city plans to remove these vehicles as quickly and as safely as possible.