Fire Chief: More Sunset Music deaths expected

Posted at 5:15 PM, Jun 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-01 18:01:31-04

Two people are dead and several more are fighting to survive following suspected drug overdoses at the Sunset Music Festival held in Tampa over the weekend, prompting the mayor to order an investigation into the event.

"This is not what Tampa wants to be known for," said Mayor Bob Buckhorn at a press conference Wednesday morning.

According to Tampa Fire Rescue, 57 people were transported to St. Joseph's to receive medical attention.  The bulk of those transported are suspected of overdosing on drugs, the fire chief explained.

Of those, two people died.

A 21-year-old woman from Kissimmee died Monday at the hospital.  A 22-year-old man from Melbourn died at the hospital on Sunday.

In 2015, 52 people were transported to area hospital and there were no deaths, the chief said.

Investigators do not know what drug is at the center of the mystery and are awaiting toxicology reports.

Tampa Fire Chief THomas Forward fears the death toll could rise, noting there are still concert goers on ventilators fighting for their lives at area hospitals.


But, one thing is for sure, resources were taxed.

"Inside the arena we had more than enough resources available to provide a good response to any type of situation," said Chief Thomas Forward.  "We deal with the Buc's games all the time and other events from University of South Florida.  We deal with a very full stadium which should have been a walk in the park."

Forward told ABC Action News there were endless calls for service and units assigned to respond to other community emergencies had to be pulled.

"Not only did it max out the resources we traditionally used to support a function of this size but it forced us to use other active duty units," Forward explained.

Forward noted how first responders in Tampa Bay are recognized around the country for their ability to handle large scale events with success.

According to Forward, Gasparilla drew more than 300,000 people and only 34 people were transported to area hospitals.  There were no fatalities this year either.


Mayor Buckhorn said he is not clear if this event will be permitted to take place next year in Tampa and if it does, there needs to be a major overhaul.

He added it is hard to place blame, explaining both event organizers and attendees jointly shoulder the responsibility.

"If you are going to take these drugs that is a personal choice, they ought to know better," Buckhorn said.

Silver Bullet Events promoted and organized the event but did not respond to ABC Action News for comment.

The Tampa Sports Authority, which oversees events at Raymond James Stadium, also did not respond to calls for comment.