SPOKANE — Despite the death of a Des Moines man from a possible drug overdose during a music festival
, no major changes are planned for security at the popular Gorge Amphitheater.
Kyle Foreman, spokesman for the Grant County Sheriff’s Office, said a certain amount of drug and alcohol abuse is to be expected at the venue. The Gorge for more than two decades has been luring major performers and big crowds to sparsely populated Grant County. During some shows, the Gorge surpasses Moses Lake to become the largest community in Grant County.
Because of the remoteness of the location, many patrons camp at the site. The big campground is known for raucous partying.
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Foreman said deputies and private security officers patrol the campground, but there are still reports of drug and alcohol abuse, fights and sexual assaults.
“Every weekend, at most concerts, we expect arrests for drugs and assault,” Foreman said. “It’s common at all concerts.”
The Paradiso Festival on June 28-29 drew more than 25,000 people, and more than 70 ended up going to area hospitals, many because of apparent drug overdoses.
But Foreman noted that is still a relatively tiny percentage of the total attendees at the festival, which featured dozens of electronic music performances.
“We have a lot of concert goers who come to concerts who do not partake of alcohol and drugs,” Foreman said. “The majority of people who attend don’t cause problems.”
The concert promoter contracts with the Sheriff’s Office to provide security and supplements that with private security guards.
The Sheriff’s Office handled 62 calls for service at the Paradiso Festival and arrested 23 people on various charges, which appears to be about average for a concert weekend. The four-day Sasquatch Music Festival at the Gorge over Memorial Day had 27 arrests, Foreman said.
Numerous people attending the Paradiso Festival told medical workers they had consumed a drug known as Molly, said Undersheriff Dave Ponozzo. The drug can cause brain damage or heart failure.
Patrick D. Witkowski, 21, of Des Moines, died June 30 at Central Washington Hospital in Wenatchee. Chelan County Coroner Wayne Harris said an autopsy found no physical injuries or pre-existing medical conditions that would have caused the death.
Toxicology tests of blood and urine, with results expected in about eight weeks, should pinpoint a cause of death, he said.