The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to explore banning raves on county property while examining security and safety measures at the music/dance festivals following the weekend deaths of two women at the HARD Summer music festival at the Pomona fairgrounds, apparently from drug overdoses.
Supervisor Hilda Solis also called for a report back in two weeks on options for more community outreach about the adverse effects of drugs such as Ecstasy.
Solis acknowledged that the board, which voted unanimously, has “a lot on our plate” given the popular draw of electronic dance music events. But she said there should be “zero tolerance for illicit drugs,” and more needs to be done to educate the public about the downside of the euphoria-inducing drugs.
“I am deeply troubled by the fact that this is the third such death to happen in my district in the last year and a half,” Solis said at a news conference Monday previewing today’s motion, co-authored by Supervisor Michael Antonovich.
A 19-year-old woman died last year after attending the same music festival in Whittier Narrows.
Two other people at this weekend’s HARD Summer festival were hospitalized in critical condition after falling and hitting their heads, fire Chief Daryl Osby told the board.
Twenty-nine more people were treated by county medical personnel for drug and alcohol-related problems, Solis said.
“Unfortunately we’ve had dozens of incidents,” Osby confirmed.
County attorneys said they are examining whether event organizers followed contractual terms to ensure the safety of attendees, and said they are aware of another rave, “HARD Presents … A Night at Fairplex,” scheduled for Sept. 10.
“We believe there is another event similar to this one scheduled at the Fairplex in September,” County Attorney Mary Wickham said. “That’s a fact that matters to us and we will be operating on a time table to address those issues prior to that date.”
The women who died at last weekend’s concert were identified Monday as 18-year-old Tracy Nguyen of West Covina and 19-year-old Katie Rebecca Dix of Camarillo. Autopsies for both were pending, according to the coroner’s office.
The two deaths have sparked new debate about whether authorities can do more to reduce drug-related problems at raves.
After a series of drug-related problems at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in recent years, most notably at the Electric Daisy Carnival, there are now fewer raves in Los Angeles. Electric Daisy Carnival has since moved to Las Vegas. Similar events, however, are still held outside the city of Los Angeles and draw big crowds.
The city will host a two-day music festival Aug. 22-23 headlined by Frank Ocean and Morrissey. The FYF Fest will feature dozens of bands at Exposition Park and Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena.
Cynthia Harding, interim director of the county Department of Public Health, said the county in 2010 issued a set of recommendations to help concert organizers curb drug-related safety issues at raves and similar concerts.
These recommendations included ensuring “adequate access pathways” for emergency responders, “ample water stations,” screening for drugs at concert entrances and “sufficient security.”
The county’s attorneys said they are not sure if the organizers for last weekend’s event were contractually obligated to follow such policies.
“One would assume we would be able to contractually hold them to follow our policies, but we’re gathering the facts on that, to see exactly what was done,” Wickham said, adding that the county “can be liable in these situations.”
“We have to look at who owns the land, who owns the facility, things like that,” she said.
Promoters of the HARD Summer festival issued a statement saying security officers, the Pomona Police Department and Los Angeles County Fire Department all “responded immediately” to the women on Saturday.
“Unfortunately, both patrons have passed away. The cause of death is still under investigation. We extend our deepest sympathies to their families and friends,” promoters said.
County paramedics had a presence in the parking lot and outside the festival, while private emergency personnel were hired by festival organizers to work inside the fairgrounds, Osby told the board.
Nguyen and Dix were found unresponsive Saturday at the Fairplex in Pomona, which is managed by the nonprofit Los Angeles County Fair Association on land mostly owned by Los Angeles County government.
Hard Events is owned by Live Nation, which declined Monday to respond to Solis’ motion. Live Nation also owns Insomniac Events, which organizes the Electric Daisy Carnival.
The annual two-day HARD Summer musical festival has grown in recent years. Last year, attendance was 40,000 people per day but it grew this year to 65,000 a day, according to the Los Angeles Times. It is considered the biggest music festival of its kind in Los Angeles County.
Ecstasy, a synthetic stimulant with hallucinogenic effects, is typically taken because it creates euphoria and feelings of empathy and closeness, but can cause heat stroke, kidney and liver damage, cardiac arrest, seizures and stroke, a county substance abuse expert told the board. Long-term effects can include depression and anxiety as well as memory and concentration problems, he added.
—City News Service