Families describe moments before mass chaos broke out at Broadway at the Beach

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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – As chaos broke out at Broadway at the Beach during the Fourth of July evening, families took cover, hid and ran away as quickly as possible.

Broadway at the Beach was the chosen spot for thousands of people to celebrate the holiday, but for one family visiting from Charlotte, N.C., they are calling it a night of fireworks that turned into horror.

“I was just recording fireworks and then all this happened, and I didn’t know I was still recording,” Nadia Patinskiy, a mother of three, said. “I noticed a big crowd of people started running. I had no idea what they were doing. Then I realized I didn’t have my son.”

Patinskiy’s other two daughters were on her and her husband’s shoulders, but she said her 9-year-old son, AJ, got lost in the crowd.

“It was crazy and at first I was just enjoying the fireworks, the grand finale was starting and then people started pushing me around,” AJ said. “I didn’t know what was happening. I thought the bridge was collapsing because there were so many people, so I started running away from the bridge as fast as I can. Then a nice lady grabbed me by my hands to take me to Senor Frogs to help protect me there.”

Patinskiy said her family continued to look for him in the kitchen of another restaurant.

“Then one lady called me on my phone and said she has my son and they were hiding in a kitchen, so we went and found him,” she said.

The lady Patinskiy said saved her son is an employee at Build-a-Bear workshop. The family went back to the store to thank her in person.

As a mother, Patinkskiy said she knew she would be reunited with her son.

“Deep in my heart I have faith in God he would bring my son back and I know there are a lot of kind people on this earth and he is smart. He knows my number; I knew everything would be OK,” she said. “I think next year for the Fourth of July we will stay out of the crowded places just in case.”

The Rappeno family lives in Myrtle Beach. Mother Laurie Rappeno said they were watching fireworks near the 21st Avenue entrance of Broadway at the Beach.

The last photo she took of the fireworks was at 10:08 p.m. Minutes later, people started running toward her and her 6-year-old son, Conor, and her 13-year-old daughter, screaming. So she grabbed her son and found the nearest exit.

All of a sudden, she saw Myrtle Beach police cruisers coming around the corner as fast as they could.

“It was a huge relief that there was no immediate danger, but still it doesn’t take away the fear you had at the moment, because at the moment when it was all happening we thought it was truly a shooter. It was a surreal feeling; you see it on TV happening in other places but never thought it would be here,” Rappeno said.

She ran across to the Marriott Courtyard with her kids and said there were tons of people inside the lobby. She said the employee at the front desk was passing out water bottles and only cared about keeping everyone safe.

Jacob Crawford was visiting Myrtle Beach from Archdale, N.C. He was watching fireworks outside of Paula Deen’s restaurant when people started screaming toward his wife and mother-in-law, who is in a wheelchair.

“Just two years ago my wife and I experienced the same thing at the Houston Rodeo, so it was like deja vu again. I stood in front of my wife and mother-in-law so that they didn’t get ran over and blocked them until we had a clear path to get her out. My wife pushed her out to the parking lot and hid behind Ben and Jerry’s until I could get to them,” Crawford said.

Crawford said while they were walking out, no one knew what was going on.

“I heard a plethora of stories, from multiple people with assault rifles to one guy just shooting. It was pure chaos no matter where you went, with people running, people trying to exit the parking lot,” he said. “Luckily, I didn’t see anyone get trampled or hurt in the situation, but it was definitely not a fun experience. But I’m glad we made it out unharmed.”

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