Ultra-Goer Died From Synthetic Drug Alpha-PVP

In March, 21-year-old Adonis Peña Escoto died after a day of partying at Ultra Music Festival. Until now, the cause of his death had been a mystery. A Miami-Dade Medical Examiner report obtained by New Times at last sheds some light on what killed him — and suggests that synthetic "bath salts" drugs are still a fatal problem in South Florida.

The report shows the young mechanic passed away due to "acute alpha-Pyrrolidinopentiophenone (alpha-PVP) toxicity." Alpha-PVP is a type of synthetic bath salts sometimes sold as "gravel."

Escoto's death marks the second straight year that an Ultra-goer has died due to synthetic stimulants. During the 2013 edition of the electronic dance music festival, 20-year-old Anthony Cassano died after overdosing on bath salts.

Escoto was an Ultra regular, according to his older brother Dionis. On Saturday, March 30, the younger Escoto and his friends went to see DJs like Alesso and Martin Garrix. But Escoto wasn't feeling well, so his friends took him to their car to lie down before heading to hear Deadmau5 on the main stage.

When they returned to the car after midnight, they found Escoto unconscious. He died shortly afterward at Aventura Hospital.

At the time, Escoto's family said he didn't do drugs. His aunt Rosa suggested someone might have slipped something into his drink — not as unlikely as it sounds given that an Ultra-goer nearly died in 2012 after unknowingly drinking water laced with antifreeze.

The ME report, however, suggests Escoto was partying pretty hard before his death. Alcohol and cocaine were also found in his blood. But the cause of death was alpha-PVP.

Alpha-PVP, which acts much like methamphetamine, has been blamed for a number of bizarre incidents worldwide. An Australian truck driver on the drug allegedly tore off his clothes, began foaming at the mouth, and climbed a barbed-wire fence before falling into a coma and dying. Other alpha-PVP users have allegedly climbed trees and rolled around in the grass like animals, and a Missouri man high on the drug is accused of fatally shooting his 20-year-old son.

Escoto's death, combined with the near-fatal trampling of an Ultra security guard, prompted local politicians to propose shutting down or moving the wildly popular music festival. But Ultra was eventually allowed to remain in Bayfront Park after its organizers promised to increase security at next year's event. Bettina Inclán-Agen, an Ultra spokeswoman, says the event has a "zero-tolerance drug policy."

Adonis' aunt said she was unaware of the medical examiner's report. "He never did that before," Rosa Escoto said in disbelief when told of the drugs in her nephew's system.

KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael E. Miller was a staff writer at Miami New Times for five years. His work for New Times won many national awards, including back-to-back-to-back Sigma Delta Chi medallions. He now covers local enterprise for the Washington Post.