Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa's report on Sunset Music Festival: arrests down, but drugs and heat were a problem

TAMPA — Armed with a new report on last month's Sunset Music Festival at Raymond James Stadium — where two people were hospitalized and later died — Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn hasn't changed his stance.

He doesn't want anymore EDM (electronic dance music) events held on public property.

Even if the festival moves elsewhere, Buckhorn said Wednesday there needs to be "significantly enhanced requirements on the promoter."

The report showed that festival arrests were at a three-year low, but paramedics ended up treating more concertgoers this year.

However, many of those arrests involved drugs such as MDMA (and its derivatives Molly or ecstasy), LSD and marijuana. Tampa police spokesman Steve Hegarty released that information Wednesday, the first time officials have said those drugs were found at the festival.

"A greater number of patients required critical care due to suspected drug use combined with intense heat, thereby requiring more paramedics to treat each individual," according to a one-page report released by Tampa Fire Rescue. "This put a significant drain on manpower."

The festival was first held in Tampa in 2012, but this was the first year questions have been publicly raised about safety.

"There's a culture of this type of drug use around these types of events," Buckhorn said, "and I just don't think it ought to be hosted at a public facility."

Alex Haynes, 22, of Melbourne, and Katie Bermudez, 21, of Kissimmee, both died in hospitals hours after attending the festival. Investigators have not yet determined a cause of death for either, and toxicology reports likely won't be available for weeks.

If the festival comes back next summer, Buckhorn said, promoters will need to do more to improve the safety of patrons. That means hiring more law enforcement officers and paramedics, offering more water and screening more attendees for drugs at the gates.

Sunset Music Festival representatives have not responded to repeated requests for comment.

Drug use was a concern highlighted in a 1-page report issued by the Tampa Police Department, which noted that EDM events attract drug use.

"This type of event attracts drug use, typically hallucinogenic in the form of MDMA (Molly) and LSD which often times results in overdoses and a plethora of medical calls," the report from police said.

The health risks of those drugs can also be exacerbated by dehydration. Using MDMA-based drugs in hot environments can be fatal if users don't drink enough water, said Tammy Anderson, author of the 2009 book Rave Culture: The Alteration and Decline of a Philadelphia Music Scene.

"Your heart speeds up so fast and your body temperature escalates so much that you essentially blow a hole in your heart," said Anderson, a professor at the University of Delaware.

The city's report did not address criticism that there wasn't enough water or shade at the festival. An event map on Sunset's website showed there were three areas at the festival where free water was offered, along with at least one designated cool down area and a large tent providing shade. The festival was held May 28 and 29 in the stadium's north parking lots.

Buckhorn ordered the city's report last week. Tampa Fire Rescue said 64 paramedics from its agency and Hillsborough County Fire Rescue responded to 85 calls. The report, however, did not include EMS figures from previous years for comparison.

Of those calls, 57 resulted in someone being taken to the hospital, according to the report, while first aid stations treated hundreds more.

Hegarty, the Tampa police spokesman, attributed the relatively low total of 33 arrests and 16 marijuana civil citations to drug-sniffing dogs stationed at the festival's gates by private security, and an effort to make more arrests toward the start of the event.

Together, he said, those measures deterred crime.

The Tampa Sports Authority, the public agency that runs Raymond James, will compile its own report. But a spokesman said those results likely won't be released for months.

Times staff writers Ariana Figueroa and Richard Danielson contributed to this report. Contact Samuel Howard at showard@tampabay.com or (813)-226-3373. Follow @SamuelHHoward.

Tampa's report on Sunset Music Festival: arrests down, but drugs and heat were a problem 06/08/16 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 8, 2016 9:00pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. St. Petersburg's ballooning sewage debt could threaten credit rating (but there's a Hail Mary plan to avoid that)

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The city needs a lot of money — $435 million over the next five years — most of it to fix its leaky sewer pipes and aging sewer plants.

    In September 2016, signs at St. Petersburg's North Shore Park warned people to stay out of the water due to contamination from sewage released by the city's overwhelmed sewer system. The City Council on Thursday learned that the very expensive fix for its sewage woes could hamper the city's credit rating. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]
  2. Pinellas County receives $30 million for beach renourishment

    Local Government

    CLEARWATER — While Pinellas beaches continually rank among the best in America, they need help to stay that way.

    The Army Corps of Engineers has allocated $30 million to help with beach renourishment at several Pinellas locations, including including Sand Key, Treasure Island and Upham Beach. This photo from 2014 shows how waves from high tides caused beach erosion at Sunset Beach near Mansions by the Sea condominium complex SCOTT KEELER   |   Times

  3. Straz Center parking squeeze infuriates patrons, motivates search for solutions

    Transportation

    TAMPA — When the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts opened 30 years ago, it welcomed just 30,000 patrons its first year.

    Fireworks shoot into the sky over the David A. Straz Jr. Center For The Performing Arts. [SCOTT MCINTYRE, Times]
  4. Video shows naked man who stole swan sculpture in Lakeland, deputies say

    Crime

    The Polk County Sheriff's Office is searching for a large swan sculpture that was stolen from a Lakeland cold storage facility last weekend, possibly by a naked man.

    The Polk County Sheriff's Office says this naked man stole a large black and white swan sculpture, upper right, from a Lakeland storage facility last weekend. Surveillance video showed the man walking into Lakeland Cold Storage. [Polk County Sheriff's Office]
  5. Fennelly: Dirk Koetter's apology no way to keep this fidget spinning

    Bucs

    TAMPA — It all began with a fidget spinner.

    This tweet from the Bucs, mocking the Falcons' 28-3 lead they lost in the Super Bowl against the Falcons, prompted a public apology from head coach Dirk Koetter, who called it "unprofessional and not smart."