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. Tampa Bay Times honored for top investigative story in Gerald Loeb annual business awards

    Business

    The Tampa Bay Times was a co-winner in the investigative category for one of the highest honors in business journalism.

    Tampa Bay Times current and former staff writers William R. Levesque, Nathaniel Lash and Anthony Cormier were honored in the investigative category for their coverage of "Allegiant Air" in the 60th Anniversary Gerald Loeb Awards for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism. 
[JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times

]

  2. Pasco woman gives birth to child fathered by 11 year old, deputies say

    Crime

    A Port Richey woman was arrested Tuesday, nearly three years after deputies say she gave birth to a child fathered by an 11-year-old boy.

    Marissa Mowry, 25, was arrested Tuesday on charges she sexually assaulted an 11-year-old and gave birth to his child. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  3. For good of the Rays, Tim Beckham should embrace move to second

    The Heater

    PITTSBURGH — The acquisition of slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria said a lot of things, most notably that the Rays are serious about making in-season moves to bolster their chances to make the playoffs, with a reliever, or two, next on the shopping list.

    PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 27:  Tim Beckham #1 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates with teammates after scoring during the eighth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on June 27, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) 700011399
  4. St. Petersburg showdown: Kriseman faces Baker for first time tonight at the Rev. Louis Murphy Sr.'s church

    Local Government

    A standing-room-only crowd packed a Midtown church banquet hall Tuesday to witness the first face-off between Mayor Rick Kriseman and former mayor Rick Baker in what is a watershed mayoral contest in the city's history.

    Former Mayor Rick Baker, left, is challenging incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman, right, to become St. Petersburg mayor.
  5. At College World Series, the save goes to an LSU dad/doctor

    College

    OMAHA, Neb. — The father of LSU pitcher Jared Poche' helped revive an 87-year-old man who was slumped on the TD Ameritrade Park concourse with no pulse during Game 1 of the College World Series finals.

    UF’s Nelson Maldonado, left, and Deacon Liput high-five in Tuesday’s late CWS Game 2.