LAS VEGAS – The death of a Texas teenager during an electronic music party plagued by drug arrests is drawing fresh attention to Las Vegas' decision to embrace the multi-day festival a year after it was banned in Los Angeles.
Andrew Graf, 19, died and more than two dozen people were treated at hospitals for drug, alcohol and heat-related problems after the Electric Daisy Carnival in Dallas on Saturday, officials there said. The cause of death was pending toxicology results.
It's the second death tied to the event in as many years. The rave was shunned in Los Angeles last year following a 15-year-old girl's fatal drug overdose. That party also resulted in more than 226 people receiving emergency medical treatment and 114 arrests for misconduct, drug possession and other charges.
Despite the festival's troubled past, Las Vegas has warmly welcomed the Electric Daisy Carnival. The tour's largest event opens Friday night at a desert site 14 miles from the Las Vegas Strip, with about 200 performers expected to share the stage at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway through Sunday.
Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman has dubbed this "Electric Daisy Carnival Week," and praised the event's move to Las Vegas as a significant win for Sin City's tourism and party friendly reputation.
"If people want to be idiots, you can't stop them," Goodman told reporters last week when asked about the event. "You can't make people necessarily behave by telling them to behave. But we'll do everything we can to make sure everybody has a good time."
The Electric Daisy Carnival is the largest electronic music party in the United States, complete with a towering Ferris Wheel, amusement park rides and celebrity disc jockeys. Electronic music heavyweights Tiesto, David Guetta and Swedish House Mafia are among this year's confirmed performers.
Event organizer Pasquale Rotella, CEO of Insomniac Events, has stressed that the Las Vegas event will be safe, with free water stations and a new 18-and-up age restriction. He was not made available Monday to discuss the Dallas concert.
"To go from a moment of happiness and enjoyment, to the loss of life, is very heartbreaking," Rotella said in a statement. "Along with the independent local promoters in Dallas, we will work with the authorities to understand how this tragedy occurred."
Officer Marcus Martin said Las Vegas police are as cautious about the festival as ever after Dallas. Dozens of officers will likely monitor the event throughout the weekend party. Martin would not say how many officers would be deployed or whether drug-sniffing dogs would be used.
Under security plans approved before the Dallas death, Las Vegas area hospitals have been put on alert and wristbands will be used to identify 21-and-up partygoers because alcohol will be sold at the 1,000-acre venue. There was no need to update the security plan after the Dallas concert, officials said.
"We can't have a knee-jerk reaction over this tragic event in Texas but we certainly can be as wary as we always were," Martin said.
Police will especially try to keep a close eye on drug use and sales, Martin said. But detecting Ecstasy can be difficult because of the small size of the often-unmarked pills and the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, Martin said.
Many of the drugs associated with music festivals, including Ecstasy, carry severe dehydration risks, Martin said.
"We want people to have a good time, but they really need to consider their health and safety before ingesting something that they don't know who made it or what's in it," he said.
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