Mystery Liquid Keeps 2 Party-Goers in Hospital
At least two people remained hospitalized Wednesday after ingesting a mysterious liquid at a New Year’s Eve “rave” party at the Grand Olympic Auditorium in downtown Los Angeles, where police fired rubber bullets into the crowd as officers closed down the event.
Investigators from the federal Food and Drug Administration said they were working with Los Angeles police to determine what the substance was. Police seized about 10,000 small vials of the liquid, which amounted to several gallons, and are awaiting test results.
Authorities initially said the substance, which overwhelmed revelers with nausea and shortness of breath, was an orange liquid called “FX” that had been distributed in bottles at the party. But it was unclear Wednesday what caused the victims’ ailments.
About 10,000 people, most in their late teens and early 20s, attended the annual “Circa--In Seventh Heaven” event, a multistage concert with dozens of deejays playing high-energy techno music.
At 9:15 p.m., firefighters received a call that several party-goers had collapsed. Officials ultimately sent 15 ambulances to the auditorium at Grand Avenue and Washington Boulevard. Authorities said 31 people--four in critical condition--were sent to hospitals, and the Fire Department ordered the party shut down.
Party-goers inside and ticket-holders outside the packed concert hall were outraged. Dressed in everything from formal wear and top hats to miniskirts, pajamas and surgical masks, the revelers continued to dance and mill about in the street as police moved in to restore order.
Josh Abell, 18, said he had driven from Claremont for a good time. Instead, he witnessed chaos.
“I saw people get wheeled out in wheelchairs and gurneys,” Abell said. “People were really [messed] up. There’s mass drugs going on in there. People are going crazy.”
Revelers hurled rocks, bottles and sticks at police. One officer was injured. Police in riot gear fired rubber bullets and beanbags at the crowd. Authorities said 12 patrol cars were damaged in the melee. Police helicopters buzzed overhead while about 150 officers from at least three LAPD divisions were dispatched to the scene.
“The crowd became unruly and began breaking out windows, throwing objects and at one point attacked an MTA bus, rocking it back and forth and banging on windows,” Det. Don Singer said.
Four people were arrested on suspicion of resisting arrest and failure to disperse, and six people were detained on suspicion of selling the liquid drug without a license, authorities said.
“I was thinking, I want to get out of here,” said Mike McCarthy, 19, of Mission Viejo, who attended the party and said he was struck several times by a police baton when he did not leave the area quickly enough. “I was more in shock than anything.”
Some participants said police descended on the crowd without warning and without provocation.
“We had the best intentions,” said Dustin Skinner, 23, who drove from Tucson, Ariz., to attend the event. “It was a little sickening to be beaten down by the police.”
Meanwhile, emergency room technicians raced to revive the victims of the mysterious drug.
At County-USC Medical Center, doctors treated a 20-year-old woman who was comatose when she was admitted, and two 20-year-old men and a 14-year-old boy who were suffering from nausea, shortness of breath and accelerated pulses. All four were treated and released.
Doctors “think the victims ingested the drug Ecstasy,” said hospital spokeswoman Adelaida DeLaCerda.
Robert Splawn, medical director at California Hospital Medical Center, said two victims were still in critical condition there. He said he was unsure of what substances they took.
“There was everything from LSD to Ecstasy to GHB floating around” at the party, he said. “People were doing combinations.”
At similar events on Los Angeles’ dance club and party circuits recently, participants have become sick and in some cases lost consciousness after taking GHB--or gamma hydroxybutyrate--or the so-called date-rape drug Rohypnol.
In November, six people were rushed to a hospital after they consumed GHB at a Hollywood club. GHB, known on the street as “cherry meth” or “liquid X,” is legal. But a bill was introduced in the state Legislature last month that would make it illegal.
A state law made possession of Rohypnol, also known as “roofies,” illegal as of Jan. 1.
Concert promoter Terry Cowan, who according to Associated Press told reporters that the bottles passed out to the crowd contained “a registered product,” could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Other sponsors did not return phone calls.
A flier advertising the party, found at the auditorium Wednesday, tells revelers to “Play safe, keep an eye on each other.”
Janeen Kristoff, 20, was inside the auditorium about 10 p.m. when she heard announcements about the problems over the loudspeaker.
“They got gradually worse. First it was, people are fainting, then they were puking,” Kristoff said. “Then they said, ‘Watch out. This is poison. You will get sick. It will kill you.’ ”
Times staff writers Josh Meyer, Duke Helfand, Marlene Cimons and Angie Chuang contributed to this story.
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