Another death at Bonnaroo draws attention to music festival safety

Heat, drugs and alcohol can be a deadly combination at large summer music festivals like the Bonnaroo Festival Music & Arts that just wrapped in Manchester, Tenn., where a second death was reported Tuesday. Entertainment Weekly reports that a 24-year-old man died from hyperthermia, a condition that occurs when the body gets too hot and can’t cool itself. Temperatures at the festival were in the 90s, and large crowds of sweaty bodies probably didn’t help the situation.

A few days ago a 32-year-old woman was found dead at the festival’s camp grounds, but the cause of death is not known. In 2004 two men also died at Bonnaroo, which was then three years old, and were the first deaths to occur at that festival.

Bonnaroo isn’t the only outsize concert to have suffered casualties: In 2008, a 21-year-old man died of a drug overdose at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, and in 2010 at least 19 people were killed in a stampede at the Love Parade festival in Germany.

Since these festivals are often held outdoors in the summer, heat-related injuries are common. Besides hyperthermia, concertgoers can be treated for dehydration (severe water loss), heat stroke (a more serious form of hyperthermia that can cause death), and heat exhaustion (a milder form of hyperthermia that may cause rapid pulse and sweating). Alcohol can contribute to dehydration.


Anyone attending an outdoor summer festival should come prepared for high temperatures and pack comfortable clothes, a hat, sunscreen, and drink plenty of fluids. Take advantage of cooling areas and water stations and remember that alcohol can contribute to dehydration. Some festival websites, such as Bonnaroo, list information about how much alcohol is allowed, plus other safety guidelines about pets, glass containers and open fires.

Music festival deaths such as these often open the doors to debates about safety versus entertainment and enjoyment; should such festivals continue if lives are lost and people fall ill, or should such occurrences not deter promoters and concert-goers from keeping these events going? What do you have to say on the subject?