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Ultra Music Festival: Police Say Anthony Cassano, 20, Likely Died of Drug Overdose

While other major electronic music festivals have been rocked by kids overdosing on party drugs, Ultra Music Festival has remained relatively unscathed.

Until now, that is. Officials now believe that the Sunday death of a young man who was partying in Bayfront Park was a drug overdose. Medical examiners say New Jersey resident Anthony Joseph Cassano "started showing signs of erratic behavior" at Ultra on Sunday night. Paramedics were called, but the 20-year-old was pronounced dead at the hospital from "multiple organ failure," according to a police report.


Neither Cassano's family nor Ultra organizers could be reached for comment. Miami Police and Miami-Dade Medical Examiner's Office are awaiting a toxicology report before determining an official cause of death, but both tell Riptide they believe a drug overdose was likely.

Officials say Cassano was visiting Miami from his hometown of Franklin Lake, New Jersey in order to attend Ultra.

At some point on Sunday night, however, Cassano began acting erratically, police say. At 10:54 p.m., paramedics responded to a call at Bayfront Park. They whisked Cassano to Jackson Memorial Hospital.

A Miami Police report shows that Cassano died shortly after midnight. It says that his father arrived at the hospital but left before he could be interviewed.

Sergeant Freddie Cruz tells Riptide the death "appeared to be an overdose," but stressed that it was still under investigation. Coroners say it may take weeks to get a full toxicology report.

Cruz said he was unaware of any other serious suspected overdoses and that, in general, the event went smoothly.

"Everything was great," he said. "We had a couple of issues of people attempting to jump the fence and get in for free but nothing that we couldn't handle."

An Ultra spokeswoman did not return Riptide's request for comment. Nor could the Cassanos be reached by phone or email.


A funeral home in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, has a website with a picture and short biography of Anthony Cassano. It says that he was a junior at Ramapo College, and loved to garden and fish. Viewings will be held the first two days of April, and Cassano will be buried on April 3 in Franklin Lakes.

The Ramapo College student newspaper also has a short article about Cassano's death, but it doesn't mention his fatal trip to Miami.

Over Ultra's two weekends this year, police arrested 167 people, 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.)

Cassano's death is thought to be the first linked to drugs at Ultra, which has been criticized by officials including City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff for the prevalence of narcotics. Last year, Madonna tossed fuel on that fire by taking the stage to ask "How many people in this crowd have seen Molly?"

Organizers point out, however, that they doubled the police presence this year.

Follow Miami New Times on Facebook and Twitter @MiamiNewTimes. Follow this journalist on Twitter @MikeMillerMiami.

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