Nova Scotia

Drugs at Evolve Festival may have contributed to P.E.I. man's death: doctor

A 21-year-old man from Prince Edward Island who attended this year's Evolve Festival has died and the doctor who treated him at the emergency room in Nova Scotia says drugs may have contributed to his death.

21-year-old's grandfather says family is still waiting for answers

Dylan Jonathan Avery Champion of Summerside, P.E.I. died Tuesday at a hospital in Halifax. (Facebook)

A 21-year-old man from Prince Edward Island who attended this year's Evolve Festival has died and the doctor who treated him at the emergency room in Nova Scotia says drugs may have contributed to his death. 

Dylan Jonathan Avery Champion, of Summerside, died Tuesday at a hospital in Halifax.

His grandfather, Clifford Desroches says the family is waiting for answers. He questioned whether an epileptic seizure, which he says his grandson suffered about six months ago, had contributed. Deroches says his son, the young man's father, suffered from seizures as a young teenager.

Desroches says he doesn't know whether drugs were involved but didn't know his grandson to be a drug user. 

"We're all waiting to know what happened," he said. "He was a very nice boy. Everybody loved him, he had a lot of friends."

Nancy Desroches, Champion's grandmother, said the family has not received any preliminary autopsy results. She also says her grandson's organs will be donated.

'Unfortunately the damage had been done'

Dr. Maureen Allen, the director of emergency services at St. Martha's Regional Hospital in Antigonish, says Champion arrived at the hospital Sunday around 2:30 p.m. presenting with cardiac arrest.

Dr. Maureen Allen, director of emergency services at St. Martha's Regional Hospital in Antigonish, says they had to staff an extra doctor over the weekend to help receive the number of Evolve concertgoers with medical emergencies. (CBC)

She said first responders on site resuscitated him but he collapsed again on the way to the hospital. 

"He had absent vital signs, he had collapsed at the venue," she said. "We were able to bring him back from that and stabilize his vital signs but unfortunately the damage had been done."

Allen says Champion was airlifted to Halifax Sunday night around six o'clock.

She says people who he was with told responders he had consumed mushrooms but it was difficult to determine exactly which drug he was on.

"What we were going on was that we were dealing with a toxin, possibly mushrooms. When you're dealing with a toxin you don't know, you don't have time to figure it out. You just have to approach it."

'Goal is to understand how this happened'

She says in Champion's age group, it's not possible to definitively link seizure with seizure disorders. She says they can also be related to drug use and drug withdrawal. 

"It doesn't change in my view the reason why this child died. It was not because of a seizure disorder that he died in my view," she said.  

Allen says she believes his death was preventable and that the summer festival contributed to his physical state. 

"Being in that heat and humidity, not eating, not drinking. He was already compromised," she said. 

RCMP are gathering information on the circumstances that led to the man's death. An autopsy will be performed later today and the details won't be known for some time.

"Our goal is to understand how this happened," said Sgt. Al Leblanc. 

Festival organizer Jonas Colter says he heard about the news late Thursday. 

"It's a huge tragedy. My staff and the whole Evolve community obviously offer heartfelt condolences to Dylan's family and friends," he said from Vancouver.

'We tried to be proactive'

Colter had said this year's event was Evolve's safest yet, although overdoses have been an annual problem.

Allen says about 20 patients between the ages of 17 and 32 came to St. Martha's Regional Hospital with problems symptomatic of multiple drugs — including cocaine, ecstasy and alcohol during the festival.

Dehydration, heat and exhaustion made the problems worse, she said. 

On Thursday, Colter said the festival had about 50 volunteers at two stations talking to festival goers about pacing themselves, resting, eating and staying out of the sun. 

"We were hoping with our harm reduction initiative this year that we were hoping to get that down to zero and sadly that number increased," he said. "We tried to be proactive and do as much as we can to reduce the possibility of harm at Evolve."

The Mounties said seven people were charged with trafficking, 12 people were charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking, 10 people were charged with possession and four people were charged with impaired driving. ​

Allen says community organizations had already planned to meet Thursday afternoon to discuss Evolve. She says a four-day festival is too long and it created the "perfect storm" for a preventable death.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now