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Sand dunes filling up for New Year's holiday weekend

December 28, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

The extended New Year's holiday weekend started in the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area on Thursday as about 20,000 people arrived by early evening, joined by 75 officers from local, state and federal authorities.

The number of off-road enthusiasts driving into the dunes was steadily increasing today, according to Roger Scott, public information officer for the incident management team in charge of law enforcement efforts in the dunes. He reported Thursday night in the dunes was quiet, although a 16-year-old boy suffered injuries when he crashed his motorcycle near Interstate 8.

The boy, whose identity was unavailable, was taken by ambulance to Yuma Regional Medical Center. Information on his condition was unavailable.

As many as 120,000 people are expected to fill the dunes for the New Year's weekend.

After several incidents occurred in the dunes over the Thanksgiving holiday, among them a shooting that has become a murder investigation, two stabbings and a U.S. Bureau of Land Management ranger who was hit by a vehicle while trying to make an arrest, law enforcement authorities were moving to increase their presence in the dunes.

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During the Thanksgiving weekend there were only 40 officers assigned to the dunes, while the number of people in the area reached about 190,000.

Authorities vowed to increase the force this weekend and on future holiday weekends. While 75 officers from different agencies arrived by Thursday, local authorities were hoping to have even more officers at the site over the weekend.

Scott said authorities are trying to maintain "safety, safety, safety," and to make sure "bad eggs" do not ruin the weekend for others enjoying the dunes.

>> Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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