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L.A. county supervisors vote to study a ban on raves after latest deaths

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday to study a ban on raves at county facilities after two women collapsed from suspected drug overdoses over the weekend at the L.A. County Fairgrounds and later died. 

The proposed plan will be presented in two weeks to supervisors for further approval and will also propose new steps to improve health and safety protections.   

"As we move forward, more measures need to be considered to create a safe environment for all patrons and a zero tolerance for illicit drugs," Supervisor Hilda Solis said. 

The deaths occurred on the opening night of the Hard Summer music festival in Pomona and have raised new concerns about whether officials can do more to deal with drug issues at the events.

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After a teenage girl’s fatal overdose in 2010 at the Electric Daisy Carnival at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, a task force created by county supervisors recommended a series of preventive measures at the electronic dance music festivals known as raves — including ensuring adequate pathways for medical personnel, ample water stations, screening upon entry for drug paraphernalia and illicit drugs, and sufficient security.

Cynthia Harding, the county’s interim public health director, said she did not know whether any of those precautions were in place in Pomona for Hard Summer at the Fairplex, which is operated by the nonprofit Los Angeles County Fair Assn. on land mostly leased from Los Angeles County government.

Mary Wickham, interim legal counsel for the county, said officials “are gathering the facts on exactly what was done.” She also said the county is looking closely at the next Hard event, scheduled for Sept. 10 at the Fairplex. “We will be operating on a timetable to address these issues prior to that date,” she said.

Solis called Monday for a temporary ban on raves on county property, similar to one imposed at the Coliseum after the 2010 fatal overdose at the Coliseum.

Solis said the action the board took at that time was insufficient and that stronger measures are needed now.

“Obviously this is of great concern and very tragic, and I cannot underscore how distraught it is to know two young women are going out to a concert and have to lose their lives thinking they are going to be enjoying themselves."

Solis' spokeswoman said the county was not yet taking steps to halt the Sept. 10 event. "At this point, they are just asking for a report. There is no ban." 

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said the county would also need to consider whether already existing contracts with rave producers might be affected by the proposed ban. 

The women died of suspected drug overdoses Saturday night, said Lt. Fred Corral of the county coroner’s office. One was identified as 18-year-old Tracy Nguyen of West Covina, who was entering her second year at UCLA. The second was identified Tuesday by the Los Angeles County coroner's office as Katie Rebecca Dix, 19, of Camarillo.

Nguyen was majoring in pre-business economics and was known to be an avid dancer. One of her last tweets last month made reference to the concert where she died: “Biggest fear for hard summer: dancing with a guy that can’t keep up with me.”

Friends and relatives across social media mourned her loss. “You were a role model to your siblings, an amazing daughter to your parents, and a kind friend to your peers. You were a proud and deserved Bruin who took pride in her work,” wrote one. “You danced like no one was watching and when people were watching (usually in the thousands) you light up the stage.”

At UCLA, spokesman Tod Tamberg said, “We are deeply saddened by the tragic news of Tracy Nguyen's loss. Many students in our UCLA community are grieving her loss. She was a very active and involved student on campus with many friends."

Last year, 19-year-old Emily Tran of Anaheim was rushed to a South El Monte hospital from the Hard Summer music festival held at Whittier Narrows Recreation Area, a Los Angeles County-managed park. Tran died from acute intoxication of Ecstasy, according to coroner’s officials.

A spokeswoman from the Fairplex has not responded to requests for comment about Solis' proposal. On Sunday, Fairplex spokeswoman Renee Hernandez said:

“Any time we have a large event on our campus, we are aware of the risks. We have protocols in place and our event promoters supplement Fairplex medical and security staffing during highly popular events in consultation and coordination with community public safety leaders.”

She added: “We offer our condolences to the family of these young women, and the Fairplex takes every measure to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience at our events.”

Twitter: @gtherolf 

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UPDATES

12:59 p.m.: This post has been updated with news of the superviors' vote to proceed with a study of a ban.

9:37 a.m.: This post has been updated with context and details throughout. 

8:15 a.m.: This post has been updated with the name of the deceased 19-year-old.

The first version of this post was published at 7:57 a.m.

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