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Tampa’s report on Sunset Music Festival: Heat, suspected drug use strained paramedics

TAMPA — A city report on last month’s Sunset Music Festival at Raymond James Stadium — where two people were hospitalized and later died — revealed that arrests were at a three-year low but paramedics ended up treating more concert-goers this year.

“A greater number of patients required critical care due to suspected drug use combined with intense heat, thereby requiring more paramedics to treat each individual,” according to a 1-page report released by Tampa Fire Rescue. “This put a significant drain on manpower.”

Alex Haynes, 22, of Melbourne and Katie Bermudez, 21, of Kissimmee, both died in hospitals hours after attending the festival. Investigators have not yet determined a cause of death for either, and toxicology reports likely won’t be available for weeks.

However, the city’s report left several questions unanswered about this year’s concert, which has been held annually in Tampa since 2012.

For example, the report didn’t say whether there was enough water or space to handle the crowd of 30,000 people who attended the two-day festival from May 28-29.

Despite a drop in arrests this year, a 1-page report issued by the Tampa Police Department surmised that there may have been another issue: drug use.

“This type of event attracts drug use, typically hallucinogenic in the form of MDMA (Molly) and LSD which often times results in overdoses and a plethora of medical calls,” the report police said.

While many of those arrests involve “illegal drugs,” according to the police report, it did not say specifically how many arrests or what drugs were found, aside from civil citations issued for marijuana.

The report was ordered by Mayor Bob Buckhorn last week after the deaths of two people who attended the two-day festival, which was held in the stadium’s north parking lots.

Tampa Fire Rescue said 64 paramedics from its agency and Hillsborough County Fire Rescue responded to 85 calls. The report, however, did not include EMS figures from previous years.

Of those calls, 57 resulted in someone being taken to the hospital, according to the report, while first aid stations treated hundreds more.

Tampa police spokesman Steve Hegarty attributed the relatively low total of 33 arrests and 16 marijuana civil citations to drug-sniffing dogs stationed at the festival’s gates by private security, and an effort to make more arrests toward the start of the event.

Together, he said, those measures deterred crime.

Sunset Music Festival representatives did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday. The Tampa Sports Authority, the public agency that runs Raymond James, will compile its own report but the results likely won’t be released before the end of the summer, said TSA spokesman Bobby Silvest.

Times staff writer Ariana Figueroa contributed to this report. Contact Samuel Howard at [email protected] or (813)-226-3373. Follow @SamuelHHoward.

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