Ultra 2014: Brother of Dead Concertgoer Calls Music Festival "a Death Trap"
Photo by George Martinez
The decision over Ultra Music Festival's fate was delayed yesterday, but the debate rages on. Even as city commissioners consider banning Ultra, thousands of people per day are signing a petition to keep UMF in downtown Miami. Ultra opponents accuse the event of descending into drugs and violence. Its defenders say that it's no more dangerous than other concerts and that sending it elsewhere would be idiotic.
Lost in the vitriol are the voices of those who have the most to say: the family members of the two young men who died while attending Ultra. They are angry but resigned about the music festival.
"Ultra will be here next year," said Dionis Escoto, older brother of Adonis Escoto, who died while attending Ultra 2014. "Sadly, people will forget about my brother and those who continue to pass [away] and have trouble at this death trap!"
An Ultra spokesman did not immediately return requests for comment. However, organizers have argued the event is far safer than concerts of comparable size elsewhere.
"Each year, arrests and injuries reported at the event have been considerably lower than other similarly sized outdoor events. However, any incident of this nature is one too many and must be addressed," Ultra said in a statement regarding the trampling of security guard Erica Mack.
The festival has promised "a top-to-bottom review of security procedures and measures to assess where we can add even more security for the event next year" but has not directly addressed the issue of drug use.
Commissioner Marc Sarnoff has complained about drug use at Ultra and even compiled a "highlight reel" of Ultra arrests and overdoses. But Miami Police Chief Manuel Orosa recently admitted there was little cops could do about the problem.
"It's just human responsibility whether or not you are going to stop short of killing yourself or you want to continue down the path and go ahead and kill yourself," Orosa said. "We can control the drugs coming into Ultra as best as we can, but whatever happens outside at your home, we really can't control that."
Dionis said he didn't want to talk in detail about his brother's death during the early hours of March 30. Adonis, 21, was found dead inside a car after experiencing sudden sickness while at Ultra. His family believes someone slipped drugs into his drink.
Police, autopsy, and toxicology reports have yet to be released in the case. But Dionis Escoto made his and his family's feelings about Ultra more than clear in messages to New Times.
"I really don't want to talk about his death," he wrote. "I just want Ultra to stop killing our youth! Money rules everything. I see that now!
Adonis Escoto was found dead in a car while attending Ultra.
"Sorry that we can't speak about the situation, [but] it won't bring my brother back and obviously it won't shut down Ultra," Escoto said. He argued that by turning a blind eye to drug use at the festival, Ultra was "destroying young kids' minds."
"I'm a six-year Ultra veteran and [always] went because of the music," he said. "Everyone knows what goes on in there! It's sad that it's not about the music no more! And the age limit being all ages corrupts our youth!
"Let's face it, Ultra has Miami by the balls, and the mayor too," he said. "It's all for the love of money."
Escoto rejected the possibility that his little brother simply overdosed on his own. "He wasn't the type to do that stupid shit," he said. "He always was disgusted with all the people doing drugs. Always. He never did, and I can put my life on it! I spent 21 years of my life with him, I can tell you that personally... He was healthy as hell! He was a great kid! Never had a health or drug problem!
Escoto said that he was upset with Adonis' friends who allegedly left him to sober up in the car but that his anger is really reserved for Ultra.
"Ultra is going nowhere," he said. "Just more kids to die in the future!"
Escoto said he was speaking out now "to prevent families going through what mine has gone through."
"I don't think there is anything more that needs to be said," he concluded. "Ultra will be here next year. No one is going to change that: not young kids OD-ing, not a poor security guard doing her job, [and] not my brother, who just wanted to dance and listen to his favorite DJs."
Escoto isn't the only one upset about Ultra, however. A family member of Anthony Cassano, the 20-year-old New Jerseyite who died from an apparent methylone overdose last year at the festival, also wrote to express her anger.
Writing a few days after the one-year anniversary of Anthony's death, she said her family had been "tortured" by the event.
"As for wanting to end the Ultra Festival, no one would like that more," she said.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Miami New Times' biggest stories.