Another Rave Death Is Blamed on Ecstasy

File photo from Beyond Wonderland 2012
File photo from Beyond Wonderland 2012
Matt Oliver/L.A. Weekly

Another rave death has been attributed to the drug ecstasy, also known as MDMA and molly.

Twenty-two-year-old John Vo of San Diego died as a result of "acute methylenedioxy-methamphetamine toxicity," said Mike Sutcliffe, a supervising investigator at the San Bernardino County Coroner's Division.

He said the death was determined to be accidental.

On March 20, 2015, Vo was at Beyond Wonderland, a rave at San Manuel Amphitheater in Devore, when he was found on the ground, possibly suffering from a seizure, authorities said at the time.

Deputies were flagged down and he was hospitalized, they said.

"He was found down, in cardiorespiratory arrest — no heartbeat, no breathing," Sutcliffe said. "One of those things where the body just kind of shuts down because of the toxicity of the drug."

Vo was taken to Loma Linda University Medical Center and pronounced dead at 11:08 p.m. that night, Sutcliffe said.

Beyond Wonderland is scheduled to return to San Manuel March 18 and 19. Alesso, Ferry Corsten, Paul Van Dyk and dozens of other electronic dance music acts were slated to perform.

A spokeswoman for promoter Insomniac called it "heartbreaking news" when Vo's demise was reported last year. "We extend our thoughts and prayers" to his family "during this difficult time," she said.

Ecstasy deaths have dogged raves and electronic dance music festivals since the 1990s, but they've become more consistent as the events have grown in size from a few thousand to tens of thousands of fans.

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Rave culture veterans have responded by calling for "harm reduction" measures that include encouraging cooling off, drinking proper amounts of water and having any ecstasy pills tested for purity.

Some EDM fans blame adulterated, fake or poisonous pills for the demise of their contemporaries.

However, in many Southern California rave death cases, only MDMA has been fingered by coroner's investigators.

Just last month, the August death of 18-year-old Tracy Nguyen of West Covina, who had attended the Hard Summer festival at the Fairplex in Pomona, was determined to be the result of MDMA "intoxication," according to the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner.

Vo was a senior biological sciences student at UC Irvine, a spokeswoman there said. 

"He received a posthumous degree in June," she said.


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