The scares at Bayville Scream Park began Saturday night before patrons entered the haunted attraction — hundreds of people were overcrowding the park in a scene that prompted the Nassau County fire marshal to issue written warnings and a dozen fire code violations.
Chris Lopez, of Glen Oaks, said he arrived just before 7 p.m. with timed entry tickets to find a large crowd with a long entry line already snaking through the entire park.
"They had no record of what time you got there or what time you were supposed to be there," said Lopez, 52, who went with his 16-year-old son Jack and three other teenagers. "Everybody was on top of everybody. It was a dangerous situation."
Lopez waited in line more than four hours before calling it quits at 11:10 p.m.
"The kids decided that they couldn’t take it anymore as their fingers and toes were numb from the cold," he said Tuesday. "There were still 200 people ahead of us so I figured it was going to be another two hours."
Nassau County fire marshal Robert Chernow arrived after midnight to find 200 to 300 people waiting in line outside the gate, despite an advance sale, timed-entry ticketing system designed to limit attendance. State-issued coronavirus guidelines for seasonal attractions such as haunted houses include venues operating at a reduced capacity, while monitoring the flow of traffic in and out of the site that ensures at least 6 feet of space is maintained between people from different households.
"There was a lot of upset people because the lines were excessive, the park was going to be closing and it was quite obvious not everyone was going to get in," said assistant chief fire marshal Michael F. Uttaro on Tuesday. The park was issued written warnings, Uttaro said, and the marshals returned Sunday for a walk-through of the attraction that yielded a dozen fire code violations, but no fines.
In a statement, park owner D.R. Finley said he had a "very good and productive meeting" with the fire marshal and will address the concerns about social distancing by further reducing park capacity and adding a private security company to assist in crowd management and enforce social distancing requirements.
Uttaro said if fire marshals return to the park and it's not adhering to the guidelines, which include limiting each attraction to 50 or fewer people, including staffers, "the plug is going to get pulled and it's over."
After paying more than $300 for tickets, Lopez is trying to get his money back, despite the park’s no refund or exchange policy.