2 die after Sunset Music Festival in Tampa over Memorial Day weekend

An investigation was underway to determine the cause of two deaths and 57 people needing medical attention at the hospital after the Sunset Music Festival at Raymond James Stadium over the weekend. 

Meanwhile, the mother of the two young people who died said she did not think her daughter was a heavy drug user, but hospital staff alluded to possible overdoses from the festival.

TPD said the Medical Examiners Office confirmed two people died after being transported to the hospital from the festival.  22-year-old Alex Haynes, of Melbourne, was transported to the hospital on Saturday and died on Sunday.

21-year-old Katie Bermudez, of Kissimmee, was taken to the hospital on Saturday and died on Monday. Bermudez’s mother hoped the phone call she received at 3 a.m. Sunday from St. Joseph’s Hospital was a nightmare. 

“The social worker said, ‘your daughter Katie is on a ventilator. You need to get to the hospital,” Nancy Bermudez recalled.

Her daughter was taken to the hospital on the first of the two-day electronic dance music show, attended by more than 30,000 people.

“[I] had to get there and see my daughter… with no life in her,” she said. Katie’s symptoms were extremely high fever and brain swelling. “We don’t know [what happened]… They have an autopsy going on,” Katie’s mother said. “The hospital didn’t know, they were bewildered with how to treat this.” Florida Poison Control said there is an extensive analysis into all those who were treated, trying to match symptoms with possible drug sources.

“That’s a very high number. I am sure they were prepared for that, but not for the severity,” said Alfred Aleguas of Florida Poison Control.

Tampa PD said drug-sniffing dogs, hired by organizers of the Sunset Music Festival, screened people at the door. They evidently didn’t catch everything.

“This year, they did more than they did the previous year,” said Steve Hegarty of the Tampa Police Dept. “I don’t know what plans they have for next year, but they are going to be well aware of the numbers we had this year.”

Bermudez said she hoped speaking out after he daughter’s death would remind parents to keep constant communication with their children, adding, awareness is key.

“Life is choices, and your choices can affect you further on. We told Katie. Katie did not make this choice on her own,” Bermudez said.

Tampa police also released information about calls it received from the festival. In addition to the 57 transports to area hospitals and two fatalities, there were 25 felony arrests, 8 misdemeanor arrests, 16 marijuana civil citations (under 20 grams) and four noise complaints. 

After information about the deaths was released, the Sunset Music Festival released the following statement to the media. 

“The health, safety and welfare of our fans and community is Sunset Music Festival’s first priority and we take every measure to create a safe environment at our events.  Any loss of life is a tragedy and we extend our deepest heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of those affected. Due to the ongoing investigation by the medical examiner’s office, Sunset will not issue additional comments at this time.”   


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