Three people died and close to 100 people have been taken to hospital following two Canadian music festivals held on opposiite sides of the country over the long weekend (August 2-4).
In Toronto, a 20-year-old woman and 22-year-old man died after ingesting “party drugs” at the Veld Music Festival and 13 hospitalized in “medical distress;” and at Boonstock Music Festival in Pentincton, BC, a 24-year-old woman died and 80 people were admitted to hospital with drug and alcohol related illnesses and dehydration.
Toronto police held a press conference early Monday evening at which deputy chief Mark Saunders asked anyone who bought drugs at Veld to turn them in to police for analysis.
He said they are calling them “party drugs” because “people are saying it could me MDMA, it could be ecstasy, it could be GHB so I’m just being as generic as possible at this point in time.” MDMA is widely known as ecstacy, and GHB as a date rape drug.
Veld is an EDM festival that took place Saturday and Sunday at Downsview Park. Among the performers were Armin van Buuren and Calvin Harris.
“If you have one [drug] and turn it into us, there won’t be any criminal jeopardy; if you’ve got a bunch of drugs and you want to turn it in, I would ask that you contact a lawyer and make arrangements to turn these drugs in,” Saunders said.
He added: “Medical staff have indicated there’s a possibility this could be poison” and that authorities want to identify it to “reduce any more harm to any members of our community.”
A post-mortem on one of the victims will be conducted on Tuesday. “A criminal act has caused more than one person to die,” Saunders said.
Of the 15 people taken ill -- including the two that died -- the average age is 19, the youngest 16. The “medical distress” included hysteria, euphoria and passing out, he said. The majority was taken to hospital over a 24-hour period, suggesting the drugs were purchased and consumed on the Sunday.
“This investigation right now is being [led] by the Homicide Squad and we’re asking for your assistance,” Saunders said.
If anyone has information, is a victim or a witness, contact the Toronto Police Homicide Squad at 416 808 7400 ext. 77365 or Crime Stoppers at 222-TIPS.
Also, over the weekend at the 10th annual Boonstock Music Festival, in the west coast of Canada, one woman died and 80 were taken to hospital. The four-day music festival included performances by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, City and Colour, Armin Van Buuren and Rise Against.
A statement from Boonstock Music and Art Festival Organizers on Facebook read:
“Late last night, we learned that one of our guests at the Boonstock Music Festival became distressed while dancing at one of our stages. Despite the best efforts of medical professionals, she tragically passed away at the Penticton Regional Hospital. We are deeply saddened by this news and we know that our communities will band together and keep her and her loved ones in our thoughts.
“The culture of a music festival is one that provides a place where everyone belongs, is welcomed and watches out for one another. We would like to acknowledge our security team and guests who were quick to find help and assist emergency responders. Lastly, and most important, we send our condolences to the loved ones of this young woman. We are deeply saddened by this news and send our thoughts and prayers.”
According to Yahoo Canada News, Interior Health Authority spokeswoman Grace Kucey told the outlet that 80 concertgoers had been admitted into emergency at Penticton Regional Hospital by Monday morning.
Kelowna RCMP had issued a warning statement on Saturday, "asking all Boonstock attendees to refrain from ingesting unknown substances and to ensure that they remain hydrated in the hot, dry, dusty conditions of the event grounds. Dehydration greatly increases the risks associated to overdose by alcohol or drugs, as does mixing drugs with alcohol."
In July, Nick Phongsavath, 21, died at the Pemberton Music Festival in BC. Originally investigated as a murder case, the findings from an autopsy determined “Foul play is not a contributing factor in his death,” said the report released by the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team and Sea-To-Sky RCMP.