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ER doctors call for end to raves at L.A. Coliseum after scores fall ill, most from drug use

June 28, 2010 |  4:59 pm

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

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

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

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

Problems at the Electric Daisy Carnival,  which attracted 185,000, follow other recent high-profile incidents at similar events held at other public facilities.

At least 18 drug overdoses tied to Ecstasy were reported at a New Year’s Eve rave held at the Los Angeles Sports Arena – located in the same complex as the Coliseum -- and two men died of suspected drug overdoses during a Memorial Day weekend rave at the Cow Palace in San Francisco.

The rave held over the weekend at the Coliseum, which is just south of downtown Los Angeles, was touted by organizers as the largest such party in North America. By the event's conclusion about 120 people required transport by paramedics to local hospitals, according to the county emergency medical services agency. The number does not include patients who went to emergency rooms on their own or were taken by friends.

Cathy Chidester, director of the county emergency medical services 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.

In an interview Monday, Dr. Marc Futernick, medical director of emergency services at California Hospital Medical Center, called it “unconscionable” for a publicly owned facility such as 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, director of the emergency room at White Memorial Medical Center. “It’s putting people at risk unnecessarily. It’s putting people’s health at risk.”

The Coliseum, built on state land, is run under the authority of a joint city, county and state commission. The Coliseum does not receive any taxpayer subsidy and is financially independent. It is expected to earn well over six figures from the weekend rave, or as much profit as a couple of USC games, said Pat Lynch, its general manager.

Lynch said the ill attendees were handled appropriately, and said the Coliseum and the organizers had been in contact with fire, police and medical agencies to prepare for the event.

“Everything was done in an orderly fashion,” Lynch said. “When you’ve got 185,000 people coming to anything, there’s incidents .… Over the course of two days, stuff happens.”

Lynch noted that police were on hand to arrest people who possessed or were selling narcotics.

“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.”

-- Rong-Gong Lin II

Photo: Attendees at the 2009 Electric Daisy Carnival dance the night away. The event, in its 14th year, returned this weekend to the L.A. Coliseum. Credit: Drew Ressler / June 19, 2009