Electric Zoo, NY Music Festival, Cut Short by Two Deaths

The third day of a New York City music festival was canceled today after two people died of suspected drug overdoses.

The festival has been held over Labor Day weekend since 2009. It draws sizable crowds to hear artists performing on multiple stages over the course of several hours. Photo: Alexis Orssich/Flickr

The third day of the Electric Zoo Festival today (September 1) has been canceled due to “serious health risks,” a statement from the New York City government announced and a posting from the festival confirmed.

“The city recommended cancellation and the event promoters have agreed,” NYPD officials and Mayor Bloomberg’s office said in a joint statement.

“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.”

The city said it recommended Electric Zoo festival end early after the deaths and illnesses during the first two days of performances on Friday and Saturday. City officials said two concertgoers had died and at least four others had fallen critically ill.

Recent Syracuse University grad Jeffrey Russ, 23, of Rochester, and Olivia Rotondo, 20, a University of New Hampshire student from North Providence, Rhode Island, both died after it appears they took the popular rave drug Ecstasy, also called “Molly,” law-enforcement sources said.

Ecstasy, the street name for the drug MDMA, is a stimulant and mild psychedelic in pure form – but is also mixed with other more dangerous drugs, a law enforcement source said.

And sometimes bogus pills that contain no MDMA but other more harmful drugs – such as amphetamines or powerful tranquilizers – are sold as Ecstasy to unsuspecting buyers at concerts and parties.

A spokeswoman for the city medical examiner said autopsy results were inconclusive and further toxicology and tissue testing is needed.

Jeffrey Russ was rushed to Harlem Hospital at 3:10 a.m. Saturday but could not be saved. Meanwhile  Olivia Rotondo was taken to Metropolitan Hospital at 8:45 p.m. Saturday and died about 50 minutes later, police said. Six hours before she was rushed to the hospital, the University of New Hampshire student posted a final message on Twitter.

“The amount of traveling I’ve done today is unreal,” Rotondo wrote. “Just get me to the damn zoo.”

Jeffrey Russ was also excited to attend the music fest, according to his family.

“He’d been waiting for months and months,” his sister Melissa Russ, 25, told the News. “I actually spoke to him Friday — and he was so happy. He was having so much fun.”

“The founders of Electric Zoo send our deepest condolences to the families of the two people who passed away this weekend,” read a statement on promoter Made Event’s website, posted around 10:15 this morning.

“Because there is nothing more important to us than our patrons, we have decided in consultation with the New York City Parks Department that there will be no show today.

According to attorney Ed McPherson of McPherson Rane LLP, who represented rock band Great White in litigation over the fatal Station nightclub fire in 2003, Mr. Made made the right move.

“Electric Zoo organizers have done absolutely the right thing after the fatalities occurred – and that is to close the festival,” he said.

“Of course, that is a huge disappointment for everyone, and potentially a great expense for the promoters. However, if one life is saved because someone had to go home, where (hopefully) that culture does not exist, and they can make certain that nobody uses whatever drugs they have, it is obviously well worth the disappointment and expense.

For the thousands of fans who flocked to Electric Zoo for big-name acts like Krewella, Avicii and David Guetta, the first two days were a marathon party, a chance to dance from morning until night, says the NY Times.

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