British Columbia

Boonstock festivalgoer dies of suspected drug overdose

A woman dies from a suspected overdose at a major music festival in Penticton, B.C., and police say they expect more overdoses will be reported before it is over.

2 others critical and a dozen more treated for drug overdoses, Penticton RCMP says

A 24-year-old woman from Leduc, Alta., has died from a suspected overdose at a major music festival in B.C.'s Okanagan, and police say they expect that more overdoses will be reported before it is over.

Penticton RCMP Const. Kris Clark said officers responded to a report of a fatal overdose at the Boonstock Music Festival just after 1 a.m. PT Saturday.

In a statement posted to the festival's Facebook page, festival organizers said the woman became "distressed" while dancing at one of the stages.

"Despite the best efforts of medical professionals, she tragically passed away at the Penticton Regional Hospital," the festival said.

Organizers voiced their condolences to the woman's friends and family.

"We are deeply saddened by this news and send our thoughts and prayers," they said. "We know that our communities will band together and keep her and her loved ones in our thoughts."

Penticton RCMP and the BC Coroners Service are investigating the woman's death.

2 overdose patients critical

Upon arriving at the hospital, police officers discovered that two other people were in critical condition due to suspected drug overdoses.

They grew even more concerned after learning that at least a dozen others had already been treated for drug overdoses, Clark said.

"The Penticton RCMP have a very real concern for public safety at this event and fear there may be further overdose deaths if attendees do not take steps to safeguard their own health," Clark said in a written statement.

"Police are asking all Boonstock attendees to refrain from ingesting unknown substances and to ensure that they remain hydrated in the hot, dry, dusty conditions of the event grounds.

"Dehydration greatly increases the risks associated to overdose by alcohol or drugs, as does mixing drugs with alcohol," he said.

Boonstock ran into trouble this past week after the B.C. Liquor Control and Licensing Branch announced it was turning down the festival's licence application due to unaddressed safety concerns.

Around 8,000 tickets were sold for the festival, headliners of which include Five Alarm Funk, Mother Mother, Awolnation, Armin Van Buuren​ and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. The festival kicked off Thursday night, and will come to an end in the early hours of Aug. 4.

Through social media, Boonstock said its security team was quick to respond to Saturday morning's emergency, and that festivalgoers were helpful in assisting emergency crews. It also asked that everyone continue to keep an active watch for others in distress.

"The culture of a music festival is one that provides a place where everyone belongs, is welcomed and watches out for one another," Boonstock organizers said. 

The Boonstock Music Festival relocated to Penticton, B.C., this year after nine years north of Edmonton in Gibbons, Alta., where neighbourhood backlash eventually drove the festival out.