Drugs have been blamed for the cancellation of the third and final day of a New York City based music festival after the event was tragically struck by the deaths of two festival-goers and the hospitalisation of several others in the opening days of the event.
Electric Zoo, which began on Friday ahead of the Labor Day holiday weekend, drew more than 100,000 punters with a lineup of around 125 acts, including dance majors like Avicii, David Guetta, and Diplo, but was cut short when two punters died of an apparent drug overdose, according to Global News.
A definitive cause of death has yet to be determined by coroners in either case, but both fatalities of the EDM revellers were linked to apparent overdoses of MDMA, or ‘Molly’ as its colloquially known, an illegal drug typically combined with other chemicals in ecstasy pills, officials said.
New York Police identified the two deceased concertgoers as 23-year-old Jeffrey Russ from Rochester, New York and 20-year-old Olivia Rotondo from Providence, Rhode Island.
Police said Russ had been brought to the local Harlem Hospital from the event and was pronounced dead at around 3:20am on Saturday. Rotondo was pronounced dead at around 9.40pm, shortly after arriving at Metropolitan Hospital later on Saturday at approximately 8:45pm.
NY Daily News reports that six hours before she was rushed to hospital, the 20-year-old student had posted what was to be her final message on twitter: “The amount of traveling I’ve done today is unreal. Just get me to the damn zoo.” “Because there is nothing more important to us than our patrons, we have decided in consultation [that] there will be no show today.” – Electric Zoo, Statement
A spokeswoman for the New York City medical examiner said that results from an autopsy were inconclusive regarding the victims’ death from overdosing on drugs and that further toxicology and tissue testing was needed to definitively prove the cause of death.
“The founders of Electric Zoo send our deepest condolences to the families of the two people who passed away this weekend. Because there is nothing more important to us than our patrons, we have decided in consultation with the New York City Parks Department that there will be no show today,” read an official statement from festival founders Made Event about the sudden cancellation of the Sunday event.
The Sunday slot was to feature headlining DJ sets from Armin Van Buuren, Sebastiona Ingrosso, Steve Aoki and Laidback Luke, according to NY Daily News. Punters how had purchased the US$179 tickets to the festival were turned away as news of the deaths spread. Festival organisers have begun procedures to refund disappointed revellers, tweeting that “refund process information to be posted soon.”
The event’s cancellation came upon recommendation from New York City officials and the office of Mayor Bloomberg, who worked with Electric Zoo’s promoters to “reduce health risks” at the event, which also involved four people ending up in intensive care units in local hospitals from Electric Zoo, which is now in its fifth year.
“The city recommended cancellation and the event promoters have agreed,” read the additional statement. “The Electric Zoo organizers have worked with city officials to reduce health risks at this event, but in view of these occurrences, the safest course is to cancel the remaining day of the event.”
The drug MDMA was also at the centre of a recent Aussie music festival death, in which the drug dealer and former boyfriend of 17-year-old Gemma Thoms pleaded guilty to supplying the pills that led to the teenager’s death at the Perth Big Day Out festival in 2009.
Thoms was carrying several MDMA pills when she panicked in the line for entry after seeing police with sniffer dogs. Fearing she’d be caught and charged for possession, the teen swallowed the three tablets she had in her possession and later collapsed at the festival, was later hospitalised and died the next day.
Thoms’ death also led to a push for an inquest into the health and safety aspects of large music festivals. The coroner, Dominic Mulligan, ruled that Thoms’ death was the result of an accident, but that services were “inadequate” to deal with her major medical emergency, especially because first aid volunteers who treated the 17-year-old were unable to identify her conditions and symptoms.