Dozens of teenagers swarmed a small pizza party Saturday night at the South Hills home of Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango and his wife, Tera, a circuit judge, prompting a call to police.
Friends of the couple’s 14-year-old son gathered around a firepit to watch a television broadcast of the West Virginia University football team taking on Oklahoma, the commissioner said. By roughly 10:15 p.m., he said, “there were probably 150 kids,” mostly George Washington High School students, many unfamiliar to the family.
One teenager was hospitalized with alcohol poisoning and another suffered a wrist injury, Salango said.
Salango said he provided pizzas, sodas and bottled water for the gathering and that he and his wife ensured the family’s supply of alcohol was locked safely away. But, Salango said, young party crashers apparently brought their own alcohol.
Charleston police are investigating.
“It started off as just a football watch party with pizza and ended up being out of control,” Salango said. “We were embarrassed and surprised by how quickly it escalated.”
A neighbor called police, complaining about the noise. Salango said he provided police with surveillance video from the family’s security cameras.
“We need people to understand, we didn’t provide alcohol,” Salango said. “We would never do that. We’ve cooperated with police.”
Some partygoers began sharing Snapchat photos and video marking the location of Salango’s home, he said. Some of those who showed up didn’t know the family, he said.
“We were running around telling kids to call their parents,” Salango said. “And they didn’t know us, so there were some who, when I went to them and said, ‘Hey you need to call your mom,’ they didn’t know who I was. They didn’t know who my son was.”
Salango said he and his wife periodically checked on the gathering until about 9:30 p.m.
“We noticed the noise level had increased by about 10:15 or 10:30,” Salango said. “We went outside, and there were probably 150 kids that had shown up in a 45-minute time frame.”
Salango joked that his son is grounded until he’s 30.
“If you’re not invited to a party, specifically invited, you probably shouldn’t go,” Salango said. “You definitely shouldn’t go to a place where you don’t know anyone. But parents have to be diligent, including us, about hosting events.”
Neither the Charleston city attorney nor police department returned calls Monday.