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Electric Zoo Festival Cancelled After Two Deaths




A multiday electronic music festival on Randalls Island was canceled on Sunday, after city officials said two concertgoers had died and at least four others had fallen critically ill during the first two days of the event.

Citing “serious health risks,” the city recommended canceling the event, hours before the third day of the festival, known as the Electric Zoo, was to begin, and the festival’s organizers agreed, the mayor’s office said. The announcement said that both deaths had appeared to involve the drug MDMA, also known as ecstasy or molly, though the causes of death had not been officially determined.



“The Electric Zoo organizers have worked with city officials to reduce health risks at this event, but in view of these occurrences, the safest course is to cancel the remaining day of the event,” the mayor’s office said in a statement.

This was the fifth year that the Electric Zoo festival was held over the Labor Day weekend; last year, it drew crowds of more than 100,000 people to Randalls Island, according to the event’s Web site. The festival was to feature more than 125 electronic music acts on five stages this year, including Avicii, David Guetta and Krewella, as well as a series of official after-parties, according to its Web site.

The two concertgoers who died were identified as Jeffrey Russ, 23, of Rochester, N.Y., and Olivia Rotondo, 20, of Providence, R.I.

Mr. Russ, 24, graduated in 2012 from Syracuse University, his father, John Russ, said in a telephone interview. He said his son had gone to the festival with 23 members of his Syracuse fraternity class and friends from Rochester.

“He was a very good son,” he said from the family home in Rochester, sounding distraught.

The younger man’s aunt, Patty Fanto-Holdaway, said he had been an information technology major at Syracuse, and wanted to run his own sports blog. A golfer and football player in high school, Mr. Russ grew up a passionate Buffalo Bills fan, she said. He and his friends were fans of electronic music and had last gone to a festival in the spring, Ms. Fanto-Holdaway said. At Electric Zoo this weekend, Mr. Russ had seen a performance by Avicii, his favorite electronic music artist, just before falling ill, she said his friends had told the family, but she added that the circumstances surrounding his death were still unclear.

“He was a big jokester,” Ms. Fanto-Holdaway said. “He did light up every room.”

Preliminary police reports indicate that Mr. Russ went into respiratory arrest about 3:10 a.m. Saturday and was taken by ambulance to Harlem Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 3:21 a.m.

Ms. Rotondo, whose Facebook page said she was studying communications at the University of New Hampshire, was taken to Metropolitan Hospital at 8:45 p.m. on Saturday and was pronounced dead about 45 minutes later. The police said that both deaths appeared to be “non-suspicious” and consistent with drug use.


The festival is organized by Made Event, a concert promoter that has also staged concerts on Governors Island. In a statement the promoter said:

“The founders of Electric Zoo send our deepest condolences to the families of the two people who passed away this weekend. Because there is nothing more important to us than our patrons, we have decided in consultation with the New York City parks department that there will be no show today.”



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Tags: music / musician (electronic)
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