Ban on Raves Proposed After Teens Die at HARD Festival

Ban on Raves Proposed After Teens Die at HARD Festival
HARD 2014 by Timothy Norris/L.A. Weekly

UPDATE at 11:40 p.m., Monday, Aug. 3: Coroner's officials have identified the 19-year-old victim. More below.

Raves have become a political football again after two teens died at the two-day HARD Summer festival in Pomona over the weekend.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis says she'll propose a temporary ban on raves at county-run venues such as the Pomona Fairplex, which hosted the 65,000-capacity party. Here's what she said today:

My prayers are with the family and friends of the two young women whose lives were tragically lost this past weekend. I am deeply troubled by the fact that this is the third such death to happen in my district in the last year and a half. I will be introducing a motion at tomorrow’s Board meeting to explore prohibiting these kinds of events on County-owned land until we conduct a full investigation into this issue.

Her office says fellow Supervisor Mike Antonovich is co-sponsoring the motion.

The two women died in separate incidents after they were hospitalized Saturday following day one of the festival that features top DJs and electronic dance music acts.

One of the two was identified as 18-year-old Tracy Nguyen of West Covina, said Assistant Chief Ed Winter of the L.A. County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner.

Cause would be determined following an autopsy and possibly toxicology testing, the latter of which could take four to six weeks, he said.

The other teenager, a 19-year-old from Camarillo, was identified, but her name was not being released because loved ones had not yet been tracked down and notified, Winter said.

Nguyen was taken to San Dimas Community Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 6:04 p.m. Saturday, he said. The other woman was taken to Pomona Valley Hospital, where she died at 8:10 p.m.

The tragedies follow a string of deaths, mostly related to ecstasy use, that have plagued raves or so-called EDM festivals. Many in the rave scene believe that ecstasy is safe, and following pill-testing efforts by groups like DanceSafe, often also believe that "bad-batch" MDMA and adulterated pills are to blame for such festival deaths.

In fact there are many instances in which ecstasy alone has been blamed for ravers' deaths. That was the coroner's conclusion, for example, in the June 21 demise of of Nicholas Austin Tom of San Francisco, who perished after attending Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas, the nation's largest EDM party.

That event moved to Vegas in 2011 after a 15-year-old girl who sneaked into EDC at the publicly run L.A. Coliseum died from ecstasy intoxication. Her demise sparked a political uproar over drug use at raves. After EDC's big summer event moved to Vegas, it continued to see an average of one concert-goer death a year over the last five years.

In fact, a county supervisor calling for a temporary ban on raves is nothing new.

After the 2010 death of 15-year-old Sasha Rodriguez, Coliseum Commission president Barry A. Sanders, responding to a request by commissioner and Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, instituted a temporary rave ban at the Coliseum and adjoining Sports Arena. 

That same year San Bernardino County officials banned raves at venues they control.

In the wake of a still-underway public corruption case against EDC's promoter, raves never returned to the L.A. Coliseum or Sports Arena.

And the county Board of Supervisors, responding to coverage in L.A. Weekly, nixed a plan in 2011 to distribute fliers that instructed ravers how to take ecstasy.

A representative for Solis noted that she was not on the Board of Supervisors when all this happened. The former U.S. Secretary of Labor was sworn in as a supervisor last year.

HARD has had a run of parties at publicly owned venues, including Los Angeles State Historic Park (it closed for renovations last year), and the county-run Whittier Narrows Recreation Center in 2014, which was a nonstarter for a second year of partying.

An attendee of that event, 19-year-old Emily Tran, died of an ecstasy overdose after experiencing seizures at the venue.

This year HARD moved to the Fairplex, which is also controlled by L.A. County government. 

Despite the scene's newfound mainstream status, rave promoters have had a hard time finding venues in Southern California that will accept them. Pasquale Rotella, founder of EDC's Insomniac Events, cited sound restrictions, size limitations, or "other struggles" in responding to fans' Twitter questions last night about why that party hasn't returned to the L.A. area.

"No plans as of now but if I found the right venue it would help change that," he stated. 

Ban on Raves Proposed After Teens Die at HARD Festival (2)
HARD Summer 2014 by Timothy Norris/L.A. Weekly

Though more than 20 deaths, mostly related to ecstasy use, have been connected in the last 10 years to raves promoted by Insomniac Events, HARD and Go Ventures, organizers have tried desperately to distance themselves from such drug use.

Insomniac is now co-owned by Live Nation, the world's largest concert promoter. And Live Nation purchased HARD outright from rave pioneer Gary Richards in 2012. Go Ventures has been elbowed out of the market. Insomniac and HARD have increased security, established strict age limits (18 and older) and instituted tough ID procedures while warning concertgoers that drug use will not be tolerated.

HARD Presents ... A Night at Fairplex is scheduled to take place at the same Pomona venue Sept. 10. 

Here's a statement on the weekend's deaths from HARD and Live Nation:

At this weekend’s HARD Summer festival at Fairplex in Pomona, CA, two patrons were transported from the site to nearby hospitals in two separate incidents. One patron was suffering from cardiac arrest and the other from possible seizure symptoms. Event EMT, security, Pomona Police Department and L.A. County Fire Department responded immediately and took appropriate action to provide care as soon as possible. Unfortunately, both patrons have passed away. The cause of death is still under investigation. We extend our deepest sympathies to their families and friends.

UPDATE at 11:40 p.m., Monday, Aug. 3: Coroner's officials have identified the 19-year-old victim as Katie Dix of Camarillo.


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