Lake Mayer Park reopens after 20 people suffered from heat-related injuries during back-to-school festival

Published: Jul. 31, 2023 at 4:09 PM EDT
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CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - Lake Mayer Park is back open in Chatham County after 20 people suffered heat-related injuries there during a back-to-school festival Sunday.

Officials estimate as many as 2500 people gathered there Sunday for a back to school event hosted in part by Savannah rapper and basketball champ Flau’jae Johnson.

But the festivities took a dangerous turn with more than a dozen people having to be treated for heat-related illness including 10 children who were sent to the ER.

Crews worked to clear trash and storm debris after this weekend’s back-to-school festival.

That event ended abruptly Sunday as the Savannah Fire Department says at least 20 people suffered heat-related injuries.

Event organizers could be heard urging people to escape the heat as feels like temps hit above 100 degrees.

“We had some cooling fans, misting stations, we provided water, we provided wet towels,” Tony Murphy said.

The Chatham County Parks & Recreation director says emergency crews were on hand to treat people but the large crowds proved challenging.

“Just the sheer volume, and the way the heat index shot up, we were unprepared,” Murphy said.

10 kids from the event were seen at the Children’s Hospital of Savannah emergency room for heat-related illness, according to doctors.

“This is definitely an anomaly for us. It’s rare for us to have this many patients show up from one thing,” Dr. Michael Bossak said.

Director of pediatric medicine Dr. Michael Bossak says parents need to stay vigilant as the mercury rises.

“Children, parents, they’re not always great about hydrating, they don’t remember, they’re playing, they’re having a great time, they’re really enjoying the festivities. We need to be adults and make sure that we’re monitoring those things and keeping on top of our kids,” Dr. Michael Bossak said.

The event was the last part of Flau’jae Johnson’s back to school homecoming weekend.

In a statement, the Savannah-native said, “Please join me in sending thoughts, prayers, and positive energy to all those affected by the weather at today’s event. The safety and well-being of everyone remain my highest priority, and I’m committed to ensuring that future gatherings are secure and enjoyable for all.”

Back at Lake Mayer county officials say they’re revisiting heat protocols for mass gatherings.

“When we’re looking at large scale events and festivals, bringing out an actual cooling tent, renting one from an event company and having one on site as well,” Murphy said.

WTOC spoke with Johnson’s publicist Monday who says the college basketball star is heartbroken but ultimately thankful for the support she received from her hometown.

Memorial Health doctors say all 10 children who were seen at the ER have been released.

They say parents should get their kids inside and hydrated if they show signs of flushed skin or lightheadedness.