Coronavirus

Sunset Music Festival 2016 Deaths Due to Ecstasy Overdoses, Autopsy Finds

Atmosphere at Sunset Music Festival
Rukes

Atmosphere at Sunset Music Festival in 2015.

Official autopsy reports from the Hillsborough Medical Examiner in Tampa, Florida, have ruled the deaths of two Sunset Music Festival attendees are a direct result of "ecstasy abuse."

The two-day EDM festival in May was marred by the deaths of Alex Haynes, 22, and Katie Bermudez, 21, as well as the hospitalization of 57 others. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn was quoted in June suggesting the city reconsider its relationship with the event.

“These type of festivals attract these types of drug use and these types of drugs,” he said. “You combine that with the heat in the stadium, it really made a perfect storm of bad things to happen. Clearly that’s an event that we as a community need to reconsider.”

Tampa Mayor Says City Should 'Reconsider' Hosting Sunset Music Festival Following Deaths

Sunset Music Festival was owned and operated by SFX but is now under the control of Donnie Disco Presents. The event has yet to share an official statement, though Disco Donnie Presents offered the following in June:

Any loss of life is a tragedy and we extend our deepest heartfelt condolences. The health, safety and welfare of our fans and community are Sunset Music Festival’s top priority and we take extensive measures to create a safe environment. Each year, as we have done for the past five years, we sit down with the Tampa Sports Authority, Tampa Fire Department, and the Tampa Police Department to layout a comprehensive safety program that is based on their recommendations so that all police, fire, and emergency medical technician staffing meets the City’s threshold. As a supplement to that, Sunset Music Festival has added private security, a private drug canine team, and other first-responder and safety staff. As always, the festival provides free water and communicates regularly with patrons about safety. Sunset Music Festival does not condone, provide, encourage or otherwise, the use of illegal or illicit drugs.

The City of Tampa has been a first-rate host and partner of Sunset Music Festival and we are fortunate to call the City home. We hope to continue to provide jobs and revenue to Tampa, and joy to the patrons we serve, for many years to come. We have attempted to reach the Mayor and look forward to the opportunity to sit down with his office. Our goal is to work with the Mayor’s office and local authorities cooperatively so as to avoid incident at future festivals.

Update:

Sunset Music Festival released this official statement to the public Wednesday, July 20.

“The health, safety and welfare of our fans and our community is Sunset Music Festival’s (SMF) top priority. Two individuals, both of whom attended at least portions of SMF, tragically lost their lives in what the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s office has ruled was accidental drug abuse. The entire Sunset Music Festival team extends our deepest condolences to their families.

We at SMF are continuing to collaborate with our partners at the Tampa Police Department, Tampa Fire Rescue, and the Tampa Sports Authority to determine the facts surrounding these tragedies, and will continue to work together to create and maintain a safe environment at next year’s festival and for many years to come. SMF maintains a zero tolerance policy towards illegal drugs and, along with our partners, has been recognized by the Event Safety Alliance as one of the leaders in music festival risk management.”

THE BILLBOARD BIZ
SUBSCRIBER EXPERIENCE

The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to Billboard.com/business.


To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.