By 1 a.m. this morning, at least one attendee at Saturday night's Electric Daisy Carnival in Fair Park had been declared dead. At least another two dozen had been hospitalized.
After a first year in Dallas that had been deemed a "phenomenal event" by city officials, the second Dallas installment of the Los Angeles-based Insomniac Events-presented Electric Daisy Carnival was fraught with mishap.
"They're dropping like flies," said one fire-rescue officer of the attendees at the 2011 Dallas-based Electric Daisy Carnival shortly after midnight, as four of his department's trucks sat backed up in Baylor Hospital's emergency room drop-off area.
Earlier in the night, paramedics had been instructed to start dropping off those in need of emergency care at other hospitals around the city for fear of overwhelming the Baylor staff. Meanwhile, less than two miles away, just outside the Automotive Buillding in Fair Park, fire-rescue and emergency medical services officers had set up on-site command posts at the festival.
"It's been pretty chaotic," said Dallas Fire-Rescue Lieutenant Samuel L. Friar, immediately after members of his unit had loaded a hand-cuffed event attendee into a truck bound for a hospital. "It's kids getting sick."
And, to that point, that's all.
"The police have been pretty good about keeping the crowds under control," Friar said.
Moments later, in the medical command post, Dr. Paul E. Pepe, Director of Dallas Emergency Medical Services, took account of his own staff's scene. The number of medical personnel needed on-site, he noted, ended up being twice what the festival had initially requested.
His paramedics had been dealing mostly, he said, with hydration and alcohol consumption concerns -- maybe drugs, too. On-hand materials made such suspicions impossible to confirm. His main concern, he said more than once, was the amount of resources being used -- far more than his department had expected. Last year's inaugural event drew 11,000 attendees. Most early estimates place this year's figures above last year's.
"We've already been talking to the promoters about making sure we're better prepared next year," Pepe said.
If there is a next year, that is: The deceased, according to The Dallas Morning News, was a 15-year-old; promotional materials for the Electric Daisy Carnival, which for the second year in a row took place on city-managed property in Fair Park, express that the event is for those 18 years old and older.
Update at 8:30 p.m.: WFAA now reports that the deceased was 19-year-old Andrew Graf of Argyle.
This news comes shortly after Los Angeles officials "postponed" the festival's return to its initial home after a 15-year-old died of an Ecstacy overdose at last year's Los Angeles event.
Nonetheless, as last night's Dallas show seemed headed for its end, Pepe seemed pleased with his department's handling of the event.
"We do this all the time," he said. "This is like a three-car pileup or something. We just usually don't have this much color."
The color to which he referred was evident everywhere on the grounds of the event -- neon wherever plausible, flesh wherever possible, glowsticks wherever practical -- as the majority of festival attendees enjoyed sets from the likes of electronic music icons Paul Van Dyk, Diplo, Skrillex and others.
Perhaps they enjoyed those sets too much. After a fire alarm had been pulled during his festival-closing indoor set, fire marshals forced Skrillex to cut short his showcase. By 1:40 a.m. officers were herding attendees away from the festival grounds despite the posted event end time of two o'clock.
"It was crazy," said festival performer Diplo, who, unlike Skrillex, was able to complete his entire set before the festival saw its early end. "There were just too many kids on stage."
And, to hear the first responders tell it, maybe just too many kids, period.
"We had an idea that this might happen," said fire-rescue Lieutenant Friar. "We were ready for it."
Update at 8:15 a.m.: Insomniac CEO and founder Pasquale Rotella has released the following statement about last night's death:
"Our condolences and deepest sympathy go out to the family and friends of the man who passed away tonight. To go from a moment of happiness and enjoyment, to the loss of life, is very heartbreaking. We would like to ask everyone to keep the concertgoer and his family in their thoughts and prayers. Along with the independent local promoters in Dallas, we will work with the authorities to understand how this tragedy occurred."
Update June 22: Sister paper LA Weekly has details on new ecstasy-related death.
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