Killer festival turns deadly; NYC shuts down third day of E-Zoo music festival due to two deaths
By Michelle Checchi
A three-day electronic music festival on Randall’s Island was cancelled for Sunday, Sept.1 by the New York Police Department beause of two fatal drug overdoses and close calls that sent four people to intensive care units.
Police are saying the deaths appear to be the result of MDMA, which goes by the street name of Molly.
The two deaths were identified as Jeffrey Russ, 23, and Olivia Rotondo, 20.
Thousands of young people, including University at Albany students, were headed to the concert when word came at 8:45 a.m. Sunday from police.
“Due to serious health risks, the Electric Zoo music festival on Randall’s Island … has been cancelled,’’ stated an email from the department’s Deputy Commissioner for Public Information.
“The city recommended cancellation and the event promoters have agreed.
“During the first two days of the Electric Zoo music festival, two concert-goers have died and at least four others became critically ill and have been placed in intensive care at area hospitals,’’ police said, adding that the “definitive causes of death have not yet been determined, however, both appear to have involved the drug MDMA (Ecstasy, or Molly).
“The Electric Zoo organizers have worked with city officials to reduce health risks at this event, but in view of these occurrences, the safest course is to cancel the remaining day of the event.”
UAlbany student Josh Serpe was on the road with a car full of friends that Sunday morning when they recieved word the last day of the festival was canceled.
“The car had an omnious mood as we made the ride back to Albany with the realization that we weren’t going to be at EZoo,” said Serpe. “What made it crazier is that this tradgedy is going to affect electronic music and the way people percieve the people who listen to it and go to events.”
Electric Zoo 2013 was the fifth Electric Zoo event to have been held.Although the number of attendees has not yet been released for this year, last year’s Electric Zoo drew more than 110,000.
Electric Zoo took to their official Twitter account to make the formal announcement at 9:14 a.m.
The festival was set to start at 11 a.m., and had attracted people from all over the country and the world. At the first two days of the festival, attendees brought flags of their nations, which included Ireland, Australia, Brazil, Israel and others.
MDMA has seen a surge in popularity within the past few years.
The drug appeared on the club scene during 1980s and early 90s in the form of Ecstasy. Use declined when its reputation became tainted: The MDMA was being mixed with a plethora of other mystery ingredients, including methamphetamine, ketamine or cocaine.
The allure to Molly, which is short for “molecule,” is that it is a “pure” form of Ecstasy, and that the user is only taking MDMA. However, in a 52-sample investigation by the DEA, it was reported that 30 were composed of 4-MEC, a synthetic stimulant, while the rest were a mixture of other controlled and non-controlled substances.
In 2009, government data saw an 123 percent increase in emergrncy-room visits due to Molly usage from four years prior- a staggering 22,816 visits across the nation.
Molly, which is taken for the euphoric feelings it gives its users, often has side effects that include teeth grinding, dehydration, chills and fever. In extreme cases, it can also cause fatal seizures and hyperthermia.
Electric Zoo, an annual festival produced by Made Events, is one of the largest electronic dance music gatherings in the world.
The young victims were Jeffery Russ, 23, of Rochester, and Olivia Rotundo, 20, of Providence, R.I.
Rotundo is reported to have told EMS workers “I just took six hits of Molly,” before she tragically collapsed in seizure.
Rotondo passed away at 10:45 p.m. Saturday August 31 at Metropolitan Hospital, while Russ passed away at 3 a.m that Sunday morning.
Law enforcement officials have reported that Russ had crystal meth in his posession.
Also at the melee, a 16-year-old female was found under a van with her pants down, and a medical exam showed she had been sexually assaulted. 31 arrests were made at the festival Friday evening and Saturday.
Attendees who bought Sunday tickets are recieving full refunds, while those who bought two day tickets are recieving 50 percent refunds.
(Contributions from Thomas Checchi, News Editor at the Staten Island Advance)
Photos by Michelle Checchi