Ultra Music Fest: Death, Trampling Cause Political Fallout
Ultra Music Festival's latest edition last weekend was marred by a trampling and a death, leading to political fallout and blowback from police.
The first incident came Friday, when a crowd of people without tickets rushed a fence and pushed a gate onto a security guard. The guard, 28-year-old Erica Mack, spent the weekend fighting for her life at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
The stampede, combined with the mysterious death of a 21-year-old concertgoer after Saturday's shows, has prompted political opponents of the giant dance music festival to renew cries to move the party. Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado said promoters "acted irresponsibly," adding he doesn't think Ultra should be held at Bayfront Park next year.
Mack's severe injuries occurred when a group tried to barge in. Ivette Lozano was outside the festival Friday night when she saw a group of young men suddenly force their way over a flimsy chainlink fence.
"I honestly thought she was dead," Lozano says of the moment she saw Mack's crumpled body. "She was so limp, her body was so twisted in different areas."
Mack spent the weekend in critical condition but is reportedly stable. On Monday, Miami Police Chief Manuel Orosa said officers had warned Ultra an hour before its opening that the fence was vulnerable. But instead of adding a heavy-duty security fence, Ultra organizers simply installed another chainlink fence. "If the fence would have been [properly reinforced], we wouldn't be here today," Orosa said, adding that cops are investigating whether organizers were criminally negligent.
Police this year made 84 arrests, 33 of which were for felonies. Last year, they made 167 arrests, but Ultra ran twice as long.
For a second straight year, a concertgoer died while attending Ultra. In 2013, a young man was left in a coma reportedly after drinking water spiked with antifreeze, and 20-year-old New Jersey resident Anthony Cassano died from a drug overdose.
This year, 21-year-old Adonis Escoto passed away in a car parked near the music festival. He and his friends had been attending Ultra since Friday night. Late Saturday night, however, Escoto suddenly felt dizzy. Thinking he was simply drunk, his friends left him in the car, but they later found him dead.
"We have no idea what happened," his aunt, Rosa Escoto, says. "He didn't take drugs. We think maybe someone put something in his drink without him knowing."
Chief Orosa confirmed Escoto was found dead in his car but said a toxicology report could take months.
Ultra's organizers, meanwhile, offered condolences to Mack's family and promised to thoroughly investigate what happened in the gate-crashing incident.
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