Drug overdoses suspected in deaths of 2 Tampa concertgoers

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Tampa police are investigating after two people who attended last weekend’s Sunset Music Festival are believed to have died from drug overdoses.

Katie Bermudez, photo courtesy Bermudez family
Katie Bermudez, family photo

A Hillsborough County Medical Examiner said Katie Bermudez, 21, of Kissimmee, and Alex Haynes, 22, of Melbourne, died from likely overdoses of an undetermined drug.

A spokesperson for St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa said the number of people coming to the hospital for drug overdoses over the weekend was “frightening.”

A Tampa Fire Rescue spokesperson said crews transported 57 festival-goers to the hospital over the weekend.

A local doctor said that mixing designer drugs like Molly, or MDMA, with hot Tampa Bay area temperatures can be a deadly combination.

“I think people need to realize when they buy something called Molly, it would be like walking into the store and buying soda and not knowing what was in the bottle,” Dr. Tamas Peredy of the Poison Control Center said.

Peredy told News Channel 8 both victims showed up to the hospital seizing and one of them had a “high, high temperature.”

Both are side effects of Molly, he said.

Alex Haynes was from the Melbourne area. Family photo
Alex Haynes was from the Melbourne area. Family photo

Kat Fotopoulos, of Riverview, went to the concert both days. She described how people looked and acted,  “Kind of like, closed eyes, kind of out of it,” she said.

Fotopoulos said she had to help people who were stumbling around, lying on the ground and having trouble putting sentences together.

“It happens, unfortunately, at festivals where people take it to a level of insobriety where it’s not healthy,” she added.

Tampa police officers made more than 30 arrests at the festival; 25 were classified as felonies and 8 were misdemeanors. Police cited 16 people for possession of marijuana.

The Sunset Music Festival was held in the north lot at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday, May 28 and Sunday, May 29. Organizers expected more than 50,000 people to attend this year’s festival.

The organizers of the event offered their condolences to the families but wouldn’t comment on any possible drug use until the medical examiner’s office releases its findings. They sent the following statement to News Channel 8:

“The health, safety and welfare of our fans and community is Sunset Music Festival’s first priority and we take every measure to create a safe environment at our events.  Any loss of life is a tragedy and we extend our deepest heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of those affected. Due to the ongoing investigation by the medical examiner’s office, Sunset will not issue additional comments at this time.”

A spokesperson for the Tampa Sports Authority, which manages Raymond James Stadium, released the following statement:

“We have received this information as you have through the Tampa Police Department’s release. We extend our condolences to these families for their loss. We will continue to work with the promoters of the Sunset Music Festival and local life safety agencies to provide the safest environment possible for their attendees.”


Victim’s mom: “Nobody knows what happened”

News Channel 8 talked with the mother of Katie Bermudez. She said there’s no way her daughter was high and that she didn’t even drink.

“We’re not even sure of what happened,” Nancy Bermudez told News Channel 8 by phone Tuesday. “Nobody knows what happened. Everything’s so sketchy. Katie is not into drugs. That is not my child.”

She is adamant that her only daughter, who had just turned 21, did nothing wrong.

“She was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Bermudez said.

At this point, officials have not said anything about a possible criminal investigation.

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