NYC Music Festival Electric Zoo Cancelled Over Drug Deaths, Hospitalizations

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht
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A New York City electronic music festival held on Randall’s Island was cancelled Sunday after two people died from apparent overdoses on MDMA or “molly."

Jeffrey Russ, 23, died at 3:10 a.m. Saturday after being rushed to Harlem Hospital.

At 8:45 p.m. Saturday, 20-year-old Olivia Rotondo, of Providence, R.I., was taken to Metropolitan Hospital after taking the same drug. Six hours before she died, she was tweeting about going to the festival.

“The amount of traveling I've done today is unreal,” Rotondo wrote. “Just get me to the damn zoo.”

Officials say at least four others were hospitalized for apparent molly overdoses in intensive care units throughout the city.

This was the fifth year for the three-day festival called Electric Zoo, and the first time it shut down. All Sunday performances are cancelled, including Armin Van Buuren, Sebastiona Ingrosso, Steve Aoki and Laidback Luke.

An NYC.gov release said that the deaths were related to MDMA, the same molecule used to make Ecstacy. The drug, nicknamed molly, has found a home among the last of the millennial generation. Unlike Ecstacy, which contains other ingredients like caffeine or methamphetamine, molly is “pure” MDMA.

Side effects of molly include confusion, tremors, muscle tension, depression, cravings for more drugs, and the inability to regulate one’s own body temperature, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Last month, a 21-year-old man died and dozens more were hospitalized after taking molly at Paradiso Music Festival in Washington.

Since 2004, the number of MDMA-related emergency room visits has doubled, the New York Times reported.

"The City recommended cancellation and the event promoters have agreed," said NYPD officials and Mayor Bloomberg's office in a joint statement. "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."

Last year the festival drew about 100,000 people to Randall’s Island.

Festival promoters posted a statement to Facebook: "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."

Sources: Gawker, NBC News, NY Times