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Tampa Authorities Suspect Drugs in Festival Deaths

The Sunset Music Festival was held at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa last weekend
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Tampa authorities suspect the deaths of a man and woman at the Sunset Music Festival over the weekend could have been caused by a mix of drugs including MDMA.

Alex Haynes, 22, of Melbourne and Katie Bermudez, 21, of Kissimmee died after attending the two-day music event.

An official cause of death has yet to be determined, but Tampa Police Department spokesman, Steve Hegarty said MDMA, also known as “Molly,” is extremely dangerous, especially if it’s mixed with another drug.

“You don't really know what you're getting,” he said. “Just because it's called Molly, you don't know exactly what you're getting, so it's a very dangerous thing if it's at a festival or anywhere else.”

The festival brought popular electronic dance music artists such as Chainsmokers, Hardwell, Galantis and others to the Raymond James Stadium.

Haynes and Bermudez were among 57 concert-goers who were hospitalized over the course of the weekend.

Mary Mainland, chief medical examiner for Hillsborough County, said she sees the effects of MDMA and other drugs “way too frequently.”

“Some of these drugs cause the heart to beat really rapidly,” she said. “They raise the body temperature to really dangerous levels. They can cause seizures.”

Alfred Aleguas, managing director of the Florida Poison Information Center, said it’s highly likely that MDMA is mixed with other drugs.

“I would be surprised if it actually was MDMA,” he said. “Lately the street analysis of drug seizures by law enforcement has shown that very little of it, if any of it is MDMA.”

Though Tampa police were at the event, along with drug-sniffing dogs, Hegarty said there will be “serious” discussion with the medical community on how to prevent something like from happening again.

“Whenever there’s a major event in Tampa, we always have discussions after the fact, whether it’s a major parade or a sporting event or anything else we always talk about what went right, what we could make better,” he said. “Clearly, given the fact that there were fatalities at the festival this year, we’re going to have some serious discussions with the medical community and with Tampa Fire Rescue about what needs to be done next year.”

TPD made 25 felony arrests, eight misdemeanor arrests, 16 marijuana civil citations and four noise complaints.

Copyright 2016 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Naomi Prioleau is a WUSF News Fellow for the summer of 2016.