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Man's Ecstasy overdose adds to death toll at rave concerts

Isabel Cochon said her son had an adventurer's zest for anything new: kayaking, rock climbing, archery.

One thing the 22-year-old Arrel Cochon had never done before was attend a rave concert. When he eventually did, on a Saturday last September, he never made it home.

"I was told that he took Ecstasy," said Isabel Cochon, who struggled to speak through tears.

Arrel Christopher Cochon, a Los Angeles City College student who lived in East Hollywood, died of an Ecstasy and methamphetamine overdose after collapsing and suffering a seizure at Insomniac Inc.'s Nocturnal Wonderland concert in Devore.

His death was the third involving Ecstasy among people who attended San Bernardino County raves staged by Insomniac since 2006, according to a Times review of coroners' records.

"Achri," as he was known to his family and friends, was at least the 16th person nationwide to die of drug-related causes in that time after attending raves produced by Insomniac or another promoter, Go Ventures Inc., the records show.

Most of the dead were in their teens or 20s.

The Times examined coroners' records in nine states after the top executives of Insomniac and Go Ventures — Pasquale Rotella and Reza Gerami, respectively — were indicted on bribery and other charges in connection with raves held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and Sports Arena.

They are accused of making side payments to a Coliseum manager to help them win government approval of the raves and keep their costs down.

Both promoters have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial. The case grew out of Times reports on financial ties between the two men and the Coliseum events manager, Todd DeStefano, who was also indicted and has pleaded not guilty. They came under scrutiny after a 15-year-old who attended a 2010 Insomniac rave at the stadium died of an Ecstasy overdose.

Since the review of coroners' records was published in February, nine rave-goers across the country have died of suspected or confirmed overdoses of Ecstasy, Molly or other drugs, according to news accounts, police reports and autopsy findings. Two of those concerts were produced by Insomniac.

The concert that drew Cochon and his friends took place at the county-owned San Manuel Amphitheater. Insomniac shifted the rave there earlier this year after residents complained of drug use during the company's previous concerts at the nearby National Orange Show Events Center.

In an emailed statement, Insomniac spokeswoman Jennifer Forkish said of Cochon's death: "The Insomniac family is deeply saddened that this happened, where someone made a choice that ended their life too soon. Insomniac takes every reasonable precaution to help keep our fans safe and informed about the dangers of drug use."

The company's Web posting for Nocturnal Wonderland advised ticket buyers that drug use would not be tolerated and that narcotics officers would be present.

"Unfortunately, we cannot control the decisions that people make, and we hope that the fans will learn from this heartbreaking situation and realize that the decision to take drugs can do irreparable harm," Forkish said.

Cochon, who worked at Whole Foods in the Fairfax district and dreamed of becoming an aeronautics engineer, had broad musical tastes — including Bob Marley and Michael Buble. It was no surprise that he wanted to check out the all-day Nocturnal Wonderland, his mother said.

"He was looking for another adventure," she said. "A rave festival was another thing he wanted to be in."

Isabel Cochon's last conversation with her son was by text message. She said he had to postpone their plans for a kayaking trip because of the concert, and she reminded him to prepare for the heat at the amphitheater.

"I said, 'Make sure you bring a towel, so when you get hot, you wipe yourself.' And I never heard from him again."

She said her son staggered away from his friends at the concert in search of water — extreme thirst is a symptom of Ecstasy toxicity — and fell to the ground. He stopped breathing and suffered cardiac arrest as paramedics rushed him to Community Hospital of San Bernardino, where he slipped into a coma, according to his mother and the coroner's report.

After two days, he was transferred to Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center. He died three days later. A Los Angeles County coroner's report said Cochon tested positive for Ecstasy and methamphetamine.

About 300 people attended the memorial service, his mother said. Friends held a carwash and bake sale to help cover the funeral costs.

"He touched so many lives," Isabel Cochon said. "They told me, 'This boy — he was a good boy.'"

ron.lin@latimes.com

paul.pringle@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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