BRIGANTINE — The city’s popular Cove beach was closed for about three hours Saturday after authorities evacuated it for a reported bomb threat.
According to Mayor Andy Simpson, someone left a note with one of the beach’s permit checkers saying there was a bomb on the beach.
In a post on Facebook, police said there was no known or credible threat to the public.
“Everything came back negative,” police Chief Tom Rehill said, explaining police did a grid search of the Cove.
The investigation was turned over to the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office.
Bill Stevenson, 41, of Marlton, came to the Cove for the day but left at 10:30 a.m. after police told him there was an “incident,” he said. He left his car on the beach.
“We just figured why pick everything up and leave?” said Stevenson, who was later reunited with his vehicle when police drove it off the beach.
Stevenson said “easily” hundreds of cars drove off the beach during the evacuation.
“I thought it was a fender-bender,” said Michelle Lecker, 60, of Bucks County, Pennsylvania. “And then all the (police) cars showed up.”
Ron Coiro, a full-time resident who lives near the entrance of the Cove, said, “Seven police cars came screaming down here this morning around 10:15 a.m.,” adding he’d seen nothing like it in his 26 years of living on the island.
Authorities cordoned off Lagoon Boulevard, which leads to the Cove. The road and beach were reopened about 1:30 p.m.
A few onlookers stood around the police barricade, while others watched from their balconies. A few said all they knew about the bomb threat was what they read on Facebook, where posts showed a mass exodus of vehicles from the beach.
Stevenson said he heard it was a bomb threat from people talking, “unless it was Jaws.” He had hoped to still salvage his day at the beach.
The Cove is a strip of beach on the island’s south end, where the city allows four-wheel-drive vehicles permitted access during the summer.
Simpson estimated anywhere from 500 to 1,000 people could have been on the beach at the time of the evacuation, as the island allows for 300 to 400 vehicles at a time there.
“Hopefully it’s a hoax or someone that was upset they couldn’t get on the beach when they closed it for Fourth of July,” Simpson said. “It’s pretty sick if somebody actually put something down there to detonate.”
Coiro suggested the city close the Cove at night, “because everything happens at night — parties, fireworks and trash.”
Assisting city police at the scene were members of the Atlantic County Sheriff’s Office, State Police, Coast Guard and Hamilton Township police.