Review of Sunset Music Festival, associated deaths complete

Evan Axelbank reports

- The Tampa Sports Authority says a special meeting will be held September 12 to discuss the future of the Sunset Music Festival.

In May, 57 people were transported to hospitals from the two-day electronic dance music concert, 25 were charged with felonies, and two people died from drug overdoses.

"Our city resources were strained the police and fire," said Councilwoman Lisa Montelione, who asked the head of the Tampa Sports Authority, which runs Raymond James Stadium, to appear before council on Thursday.

The Sunset Music Festival, attended by more than 50,000 people, led paramedics to evaluate 509 people.

Katie Bermudez, 21 and Alex Haynes, 22, died of ecstasy overdoses.

At the time, Mayor Bob Buckhorn said if it were up to him, the event would not continue.

"These guys ran the wheels off the trucks," said Buckhorn.

In a statement, concert organizers pledged to expand the size of a cooling tent, provide more bottled water, pay for more drug sniffing dogs and police officers, and add more medical personnel.

"I start to hesitate to shut down public events that we can make better," said Montelione.

The event has grown in the five years since it started, and draws plenty of tourism dollars. The Sports Authority told council they are looking at other festivals that have been more successful, to imitate their practices if the event goes forward.

"We want to take a more proactive approach," said authority CEO Eric Hart. "Before (attendees) get there, as they are arriving, (we are) working with the police, to deal with issues before they become issues inside."

The festival reimbursed the city for all the ambulance and police costs. They say they have a "zero tolerance" drug policy.

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