Keep raves out of the Coliseum, doctors urge

A woman runs from a police officer after several crowds rushed a fence at the Electric Daisy Carnival rave at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
(John W. Adkisson / Los Angeles Times)

Several emergency room physicians called Monday for an end to raves at the Los Angeles Coliseum after a massive weekend event sent scores of teenagers and young adults to hospitals, mostly for drug intoxication.

At least two people — one of them a minor — were in the intensive care unit for drug intoxication at California Hospital Medical Center. Another minor was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital comatose; the minor had taken another attendee’s water bottle and had drunk from it without realizing it had been laced with drugs.

Dr. Philip Fagan Jr., the medical director at Good Samaritan’s emergency department, said the youth was unconscious for eight hours before waking up and recalling what had happened.

Raves, Fagan said, “should never be held any longer at the Coliseum.”

Problems at the Electric Daisy Carnival, which attracted 185,000 party-goers, follow other recent high-profile incidents at similar events. At least 18 drug overdoses tied to Ecstasy were reported at a New Year’s Eve rave at the Los Angeles Sports Arena — next to the Coliseum — and two men died of suspected drug overdoses during a Memorial Day weekend rave at the Cow Palace in Daly City, south of San Francisco.

Organizers of the Coliseum event touted it as the largest such party in North America. The rave, featuring five stages, was held at the stadium and in Exposition Park, just south of downtown Los Angeles. A publicist for Insomniac, the company that organized the rave, said Monday that founder Pasquale Rotella could not be reached for comment.

By the event’s conclusion, about 120 people had been taken to hospitals by paramedics.

Cathy Chidester, director of the Los Angeles County Emergency Medical Systems agency, said officials treat raves at the Coliseum like a “multi-casualty incident,” which she said was similar to planning for a disaster like the Chatsworth Metrolink train crash, which killed 25 and left more than 130 others injured.

Dr. Marc Futernick, medical director of emergency services at California Hospital Medical Center, called it “unconscionable” for a publicly owned facility like the Coliseum to host raves.

“I don’t know why our elected … leaders would allow these activities to take place,” Futernick said.

“This is basically a government-encouraged … drug fest. That’s the wrong message,” said Dr. Brian Johnston, emergency room medical director at White Memorial Medical Center. “It’s putting people at risk, unnecessarily. It’s putting people’s health at risk.”

Teens as young as 15 were taken to hospitals, Chidester said.

In recent years, Futernick said, he knows of at least five people who have died of drug overdoses at California Hospital after attending raves at the Coliseum.

Health officials say use of Ecstasy is widely associated with raves. Physicians said some teens and young adults mistakenly believe that Ecstasy is safe without realizing that it can cause organ failure and death.

In addition to drug-related problems, some of those taken to hospitals suffered trauma after people rushed gates to get inside without the required $75 ticket. On Saturday night, police made 63 arrests for possession and sale of narcotics, trespassing and drinking in public, among other violations.

The Coliseum, built on state land, is operated under the authority of a joint city, county and state commission. The Coliseum is independent financially and is expected to earn “well above six figures” from the weekend rave, making it at least twice as profitable as a USC game, said Pat Lynch, its general manager.

“Everything was done in an orderly fashion,” Lynch said. “When you’ve got 185,000 people coming to anything, there’s incidents.”

“Are we happy that there’s drugs? No. But on the other hand, we take every step we can to minimize it,” said Lynch. “There’s a reason 185,000 people were here. They’re quality events. My kids came and had a ball.”

A report on the effects of raves on the county’s emergency medical system is expected to be made on July 21 at a meeting of the joint commission in Santa Fe Springs.