On Friday and Saturday, two people died and four were hospitalized due to Ecstasy-related illnesses at the Electric Zoo electronic music festival on Randall's Island. The deaths of Olivia Rotondo, 20, a University of New Hampshire junior from North Providence, RI, and Jeffery Russ, 23, a Syracuse University graduate from Rochester, ultimately prompting officials to cancel the third day of the event. Both died of an overdose from MDMA, more specifically molly, a more concentrated form of the drug. The Post reports that on Saturday Rotondo told an EMS worker, “I just took six hits of Molly,’’ before collapsing in a seizure and dying.
Hours before her death, Rotondo tweeted her excitement about attending the fifth annual Electric Zoo: “The amount of traveling I’ve done today is unreal. Just get me to the damn zoo." “She was the nicest girl I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing,” Noah Burkholz, a friend who had traveled to the festival with her, told the Times. Her grandfather Henry Rotondo, 73, told the Post, “She was a great kid — that’s all I can tell you.”
Police do not believe that Rotondo and Russ knew each other. Russ, who died early Saturday morning, graduated from Syracuse University last year with a degree in information technology. “Now there will be no grandchildren, no nieces, no nephews, no wedding,” Russ’ father, John Russ, told the Daily News. “Everything you look forward to in life is gone because of one pill.”
Police say that the four concertgoers who also became critically ill due to drug use are expected to recover. In addition to all that, a 16-year-old girl was sexually assaulted and 31 people were arrested for offenses including drug sales, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and possession of controlled substances. Many criticized the lax security and the lack of medical staff; one concertgoer told us that it took several hours to get Russ from the festival to the hospital. “You saw a lot of people puking and collapsing down and laying on the ground,” 19-year-old Christopher Stuebbe told the Times.
While some lashed out at Bloomberg and organizers for canceling events on Sunday, others defended the culture of the event. "I don't think EDM culture promotes drug use at all. Young people are experimental by nature because they have no sense of their own mortality," Leslie Doyle, who has attended Electric Zoo festivals over the years and planned to go on Sunday, wrote us. "Acts of violence would be a good reason to shut down a music festival, there was none of that! This administration reacted to 6 people who made unfortunate personal choices. Their decision to shut down EZoo has tarnished the experience for the collective group of tens of thousands."
"EZoo officials go to great lengths to make this an Eco friendly event, and the DJs make announcements advising people to take care of themselves," she added. "There will always be a few people that lose control. Shutting down Zoo is one more example of the Bloomberg Administration's nannyism. When people die of alcohol poisoning, are they going to shut down the restaurants and bars who serve them?"