Every time the neon-clad masses descend upon Miami for the Ultra Music Festival, rumors of injuries, overdoses, and even deaths swirl around the city.
Ever wonder how much of it is true? We did, so we decided to find out. After three weeks of repeatedly requesting public records, here's what we discovered.
After breaking the news that 20-year-old Anthony Cassano likely died of a drug overdose at Ultra, we wondered how many more had gotten sick or injured at the festival.
We contacted the City of Miami's Department of Fire Rescue at the end of March to request reports on everyone attended to by paramedics at Ultra.
Instead, nearly two weeks later, all we got was this:
- Over the course of Ultra's two weekends, City of Miami paramedics responded to 44 calls at Bayfront Park
- In 24 of those cases, someone was taken to the hospital.
Unless Miami Fire Rescue responds to our requests for more detailed information, however, we have no idea how many of those 24 hospitalizations were overdoses.
At least a few, in all likelihood. Shortly after Ultra ended -- and before New Times reported Cassano's death -- a tipster sent us an email describing the emergency room at Jackson Memorial on the last day of the festival: "There were three kids in the ER on Sunday evening," the tipster wrote. "I know one died and the other two were in very bad shape."
An Ultra spokesman did not respond to our request for comment for this article.
Police arrested 167 people at Ultra this year, primarily for narcotics and gatecrashing. (Last year, there were 78 arrests during the three-day event, 45 of them for narcotics. More than 60 people were injured last year, many from suspected drug overdoses, but no one died.)
City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff has criticized the festival for the prevalence of narcotics, even calling for Ultra to drop its second weekend.
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A 2012 University of Miami study, meanwhile, found that three previously healthy men in their 20s suffered brain hemorrhages from taking MDMA, or "Molly," last year.
The debate over drug abuse at Ultra isn't going to be settled any time soon. But more public records sure would help.