COLUMBIA, Md. - The family of a 20-year-old North Carolina man who died at Howard County General Hospital after attending a concert at Howard County’s Merriweather Post Pavilion over the weekend believes he was poisoned by “toxic water” given to him by another concertgoer.
Two people died and 18 others were injured from what officials believed to be a drug overdoses stemming from the “Mad Decent Block Party” held Friday in Columbia. Officials are questioning whether to bring back the music festival next year.
Tyler Viscardi’s sister Chelsea called his death a “terrible mishap.”
'We are devastated by the sudden loss of our beloved Tyler,” Chelsea Viscardi said in a statement. “He was the victim of a terrible mishap. Details are not clear yet, but we know this much. He was attending a music festival in Maryland with some friends. According to his close college friend who was with him, the afternoon was hot and he drank water that was given to him by others who were in the area.
“We believe that this contained a substance, unbeknownst to him, to which he had a toxic reaction,” she continued. “He was taken to a nearby hospital, but the reaction proved fatal. This tragic accident has taken Tyler from us. He will always be in our hearts.”
A 17-year-old Virginia boy also died from what health officials suspect was a drug overdose. The family will not be releasing his name.
"People are supposed to go to concerts to have a good time, not risk their lives like that," Casey Zavorka, who worked at a concessions stand for the concert, said.
Police believe the drug MDMA, more commonly referred to as ecstasy or Molly, was widely used at the concert. There is a belief that “Molly” is a pure form of the synthetic drug.
However, "there is no one pure form of it,” Sherry Llewellyn, a spokeswoman for the Howard County Police Department, said. “It's a mix of various elements, so different people who make it include different things, including things like sometimes ketamine, which is an animal tranquilizer."
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Police confirmed that 20 concert attendees in total needed to be treated for drug-related issues. Investigators have learned other cities have seen similar problems with the Mad Decent Block Party.
"There already are meetings being put into place to discuss the future of this particular event and also of the events of similar types that are planning on coming to Merriweather," Llewellyn added
Concert organizers posted a brief statement about the incidents on the show’s web page: “We were shocked and saddened when we heard the news from Friday’s event... our hearts go out to everyone impacted by this."
Howard County police have not seen a link between any of the other patients who were taken to the hospital. Right now, investigators can't say if the drugs came from one source.
A representative from Merriweather Post Pavilion issued a statement (after the video above aired at 5 p.m.) on the venue's safety protocols.
We take safety and the protection of fans seriously and we work hand in hand with the police department and EMS personnel. Measures at the event included searching each patron prior to entering the venue and denying access to anyone demonstrating objective signs they were under the influence. Backpacks were not permitted, purses and string bags were searched and each patron received a pat-down search by security. When illegal substances were found, the patron and the substance were turned over to police. Patrons were permitted to bring in an empty water bottle so they could refill it free of charge. No other beverages or food were permitted to be brought in, including candy, gum and breath strips. We have more than a quarter of a million people come to the venue safely each year to hear music of all genres, including this type of festival. It is unfortunately difficult to protect fans from their own actions, particularly if committed before they enter the venue.
Seth Hurwitz, chairman and operator of Merriweather Post Pavilion, also issued a statement regarding drug use at concert:
Our hearts go out to the families as they face the unimaginable. As a parent, it makes me horribly sad beyond words to think of a tragedy like this. We can spend every minute of the day making perfect sense to our children regarding the obvious perils of drugs, but sometimes it is impossible
to convince them that this is relevant to their world. Youth feel invulnerable. Some refuse to believe they could be affected. We knew we were right. That doesn't comfort us now.
This drug epidemic is no longer confined to specific demographics, or time of day, or geography, or lifestyle. It's just everywhere and, and unfortunately, this generation of teens and 20-somethings has not learned this lesson yet. It’s just heartbreaking. This particular type of incident is not the problem of those who should have known better...it's the problem of those too young to believe it could happen to them. Sadly we find ourselves in the classic position of trying to tell kids not to do something they think is fun.