'I didn't mean for it to get out of hand'

MEGAN MILLER
Last updated 05:00 19/02/2013
otipua hall
MEGAN MILLER/ Fairfax NZ
AFTERMATH: Otipua residents pitch in to sweep up shards of broken bottles that littered Beaconsfield Rd after an out-of-control party on Saturday.

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Jonny Hughes intended his 19th birthday party to be huge; he just didn't expect it to involve police in riot gear.

The Timaru man invited about 200 people via Facebook and other channels to the event on Saturday at Otipua Hall.

He said he hired four bouncers to work the door and check everyone was on the guest list, as well as stamp the hands of people permitted inside.

But around 11.30pm, the plan started to fall apart.

A group of about 20 uninvited people showed up and started trouble outside, he said.

"They started getting violent. Two of the bouncers were trying to break up a fight and were injured."

The remaining two were overwhelmed by the violence escalating outside the hall, he said.

When police arrived, and people began throwing rocks and bottles at them, the situation quickly intensified.

"By the time I got there, there was no room for private security to do anything, anyway," Senior Sergeant Randel Tikitiki said.

Alarmed neighbours watched from their homes as officers with riot shields, helmets and batons waded into the crowd, arresting eight people who were identified as throwing projectiles at police.

Arrested were two males from Temuka, aged 15 and 19, and six Timaru males, aged 17, 19 (two), 20, 21 and 22.

"It was like World War III out here," neighbour Des Kearns said.

At least one policeman was injured, requiring stitches on his leg after being hit by a bottle, Mr Tikitiki said. A 19-year-old Timaru man spat in a constable's face.

The trouble was exacerbated by the party's location, he said. It was too isolated from town for people who wanted to get away to walk home or get rides easily.

The 104-year-old hall escaped without major damage, but was left in disarray and covered in rubbish. Mr Hughes and some family and friends spent hours cleaning the inside of the building and the carpark on Sunday.

The Otipua community pulled together to sweep clean Beaconsfield Rd, which was left so littered with broken glass that it wasn't safe for cars.

"If you're going to have these parties, don't broadcast it on social media, and put precautions in place for security," Mr Tikitiki said.

"For people attending, when the party starts to turn bad, the best thing to do is leave."

Mr Hughes said he wanted to apologise to the Otipua community.

"I didn't mean for it to get this out of hand, and it's just a shame that a small minority of people ruined the night for so many," he said.

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So how is he going to celebrate his 20th?

"I'll probably have a quiet one, with a wee cup of tea and maybe a movie."

- The Timaru Herald

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