Police believe rival gangs confronted each other to fire the fatal shots amid thousands of exploding firecrackers and spreading smoke about 1am
Scores of pierced ''warriors'' were at the small Saphan Hin beach in Phuket City to send off the spirits that had invaded their bodies for the nine days of the spectacular annual festival.
Nearby at the Phuket Vocational College in Kra Road, hundreds of festival followers dressed in white milled about as paramedics worked desperately to pump life back into one young boy and treat two 17-year-olds with shooting wounds.
The paramedics lost their battle to one bullet in the ribs and another in the heart.
Fourteen spent bullets were found at the scene of the killing. It's believed the three boys on one motorcycle were chased down by a larger group.
The wounded boys at first tried to take their seriously shot friend to hospital but were forced to stop and call in Kusoldharm paramedics.
Officers from Phuket Police Station hope to interview the two shot survivors at Vachira Phuket Hospital, where the boy's body was also taken.
Processions from all of Phuket's Chinese temples made their way through Phuket City's streets last night as the final rites of the Vegetarian Festival reached an ear-bursting fireworks-filled crescendo.
Those who have their bodies entranced by the spirits pierce their cheeks with traditional spikes, handguns or anything that can be put through a cheek.
But the penitents remove the projectiles and survive.
Last night two bullets cut down one young man in what's believed to be the first time the 120-year-old festival has been desecrated by a murder.
The killing will also cause police special concern because it indicates the ''firecracker'' youth on Phuket is also liable to explode.
Less that a fortnight ago, young hotheads took control of a peaceful protest outside Thalang Police Station and turned it into a riot.
Arrest warrants have been issued for 47 people, with more likely to be announced soon. Police are holding off pursuits until after the funerals of two young men.
Their deaths in a motorcycle crash sparked the riot.