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Autopsy says ecstasy abuse caused Sunset Music Festival deaths

Arrests were at a three-year low but two died and more concertgoers required medical treatment during the Sunset Music Festival on May 28-29 at Raymond James Stadium.
Published Jul. 19, 2016

TAMPA — Abuse of the drug ecstasy caused the deaths of two people at the Sunset Music Festival in late May, an autopsy report released Monday said.

Alex Haynes, 22, of Melbourne, and Katie Bermudez, 21, of Kissimmee, died after attending the electronic dance music festival held on the Raymond James Stadium grounds from May 28-29. They were among 57 concertgoers who were transported by city and county rescue crews from the festival to hospitals.

The casualties drew an admonition from Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who said in June he didn't think future EDM festivals should be held on public property — citing "a culture of this type of drug use."

The Tampa Sports Authority, a public agency, manages Raymond James Stadium. City spokeswoman Ashley Bauman said Monday that the mayor's position on the event is unchanged.

Ecstasy, the nickname for MDMA or methylenedioxymethamphetamine, and sister drug MDA, were found in the blood of Haynes and Bermudez, according to the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office

The office ruled the manner of each death to be accidental drug abuse. In an earlier report for Buckhorn, the Tampa Police Department said EDM festivals are a haven for the type of drug use that killed Haynes and Bermudez.

Although arrests at Sunset were at a three-year low, many arrests and citations included charges involving MDMA, LSD and marijuana.

"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.

Another earlier report from Tampa Fire Rescue said suspected drug use combined with severe heat "put a significant drain on manpower."

A separate review from the Tampa Sports Authority is expected to wrap up in a month or more, said Bobby Silvest, authority spokesman.

Sunset Music Festival representatives could not be reached for comment Monday.

Contact Samuel Howard at showard@tampabay.com or (813)-226-3373. Follow @SamuelHHoward.

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