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Thirty-two taken to hospital on Sunset Music Festival's first day, more than last year

Thousands of people crowd the main stage at the Sunset Music Festival on Saturday in the north Raymond James Stadium parking area. The temperature at the time of the photo was 92 degrees. [LUIS SANTANA   |   Times]
Thousands of people crowd the main stage at the Sunset Music Festival on Saturday in the north Raymond James Stadium parking area. The temperature at the time of the photo was 92 degrees. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]
Published May 29, 2017

TAMPA — To cut down on medical emergencies this year, sponsors of the Sunset Music Festival at Raymond James Stadium brought in more security and safety measures.

But the annual two-day festival of electronic dance music was on pace Saturday to exceed the number of people taken to the hospital last year.

Thirty-two concert-goers were hauled off by ambulance during the first day of the two-day festival, Tampa Fire Rescue spokesman Jason Penny said. That's more than half the two-day total of 57 last year.

The number of people needing medical attention on Sunday was not immediately available.

The high temperature Saturday was right at normal for this time of year, 89 degrees, with Sunday's high 92, said 10News meteorologist Ashley Batey. Humidity made it feel a few degrees hotter, Batey said, but nothing like the humidity expected Monday.

"It was hot, hot, hot," Joseph Marine, 21, of Tampa, said Sunday. "Enough water but not enough shade."

Still, many in the crowd seemed to see few signs of the emergencies that medical personnel struggled with through the weekend.

Marine saw some drug use, he said, but the only medical issue he witnessed were two guys "dropped in a mosh pit."

Said Jennifer Wright, 22, of Tampa, "I saw things but nothing I didn't expect to see. I saw drugs. Smelled pot. But nothing crazy. It was all fun."

A woman who identified herself as 21-year-old Penny Nicols of Orlando, wearing a pink thong and star pasties, said, "It's just the culture of this — dress weird, party, go wild."

Nicols praised promoters' efforts to make the experience safer for the estimated 25,000 people in attendance.

"This was best I've been to in taking care of us. I didn't see anyone hurt and probably because of that."

Emanuel Perez, 19, of Miami, agreed, saying, "It was intense but I like how user friendly it was with free water and a cool down zone.

"Yeah I saw drugs," Perez said, "but every concert like this will have that with some OD'ing."

A combination of heat, drugs and alcohol was blamed for the medical emergencies last year. Concert-goers Alex Haynes, 22, of Melbourne, and Katie Bermudez, 21, of Kissimmee died from abuse of the drug ecstasy, according to an autopsy report released two months later.

Over objections from Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the Tampa Sports Authority, which operates Raymond James Stadium, agreed to allow promoters to hold the festival again this year in the parking area north of the stadium.

Promoters promised more shaded areas and water along with a heavier police and emergency medical presence.

PHOTOS: 2017 Sunset Music Festival Day One

MORE: One year after deaths, Sunset Music Festival kicks off with emphasis on water and security

REVIEW: Sunset Music Fest brings Major Lazer to Tampa

On Saturday, 14 of the 32 people with medical problems were sent to St. Joseph's Hospital, the emergency medical center closest to the concert, where they were treated for a mix of drug and alcohol intoxication, said hospital spokeswoman Beverly Littlejohn.

Tampa General Hospital treated four patients — two for intoxication, one for dehydration and another for a laceration, said spokeswoman Lisa Greene.

Another 60 concert-goers came in to get checked out at the scene but did not require a trip to the hospital, said Penny with Tampa Fire Rescue.

The Tampa Police Department said 25 mostly drug-related arrests were made at the concert on Saturday, up 14 from the first day in 2016. Fifteen people were ejected, one more than on last year's first day.

As of early Sunday evening, the day's totals were five felony arrests, two misdemeanor arrests, three civil citations and 13 ejections, said Tampa police spokesman Eddie Durkin.

Contact Paul Guzzo at pguzzo@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3320 Follow @PGuzzoTimes.