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NYC music festival canceled after MDMA-related concerns, officials say

Daniel Zuchnik / Getty Images Contributor

Tiesto performs during Electric Zoo 2013 at Randall's Island on August 31 in New York City.

An annual electronic music festival held on an island flanked by the New York City boroughs of Manhattan and Queens was canceled Sunday after two concert-goers died and at least four others fell ill due to suspected drug use, city officials said.

The New York City Mayor’s office announced the Electric Zoo Festival on Randall’s Island had been called off, just hours before its third and final day was slated to begin, according to a press release.

“The Electric Zoo organizers have worked with city officials to reduce health risks at this event, but in view of these occurrences, the safest course is to cancel the remaining day of the event,” the release said.

Authorities believe the late and ailing concert-goers interacted with MDMA — nicknamed “Molly” — a form of the illegal drug ecstasy, but authorities have yet to determine “definitive causes of death,” according to the release.  “Molly” is a popular drug among teenagers and on the electronic music festival circuit.

The New York City Health Department said on average they see ten cases of MDMA or ecstasy overdoses annually.

“Two deaths, back to back, is worrisome,” said Health Department spokesman Sam Miller. He said the city’s medical examiner’s office is heading up the investigation.

Autopsies performed on both victims Sunday were inconclusive, and further toxicology and tissue testing are required, a spokeswoman for the city medical examiner’s office told the Associated Press.

City officials identified the victims as Jeffrey Russ, 23, of Rochester, N.Y., and Olivia Rotondo, 20, of North Providence, R.I.

Russ was pronounced dead at Harlem Hospital at roughly 3:20 a.m. Saturday, police said. He had been rushed to the hospital from the festival.

Rotondo was transported to Metropolitan Hospital around 8:45 p.m. Saturday and was pronounced dead less than an hour later, according to police.

Russ was a recent graduate of Syracuse University, according to his Twitter account.

Rotondo was a student at the University of New Hampshire. School officials released a statement Sunday afternoon, saying they were “greatly saddened to learn of” her death.

“We extend our deepest sympathies to her family and friends during this difficult time, and are focused on providing support and resources to our campus community,” the statement said.

The popular festival, which launched in 2009 and is held every Labor Day weekend, draws tens of thousands of electronic music aficionados to New York City’s spacious Randall’s Island Park.

This year's festival featured performances by popular recording artists David Guetta, Avicii and Benny Benassi.

Made Event, the Long Island City-based group behind the festival, expressed its "deepest condolences to the families of the two people who pass away this weekend" in a statement posted on the event's website.

"Because there is nothing more important to us than our patrons, we have decided in consultation with the New York City parks department that there will be no show today," the statement said.

Meanwhile in Boston, three young men were transported to hospitals Saturday after apparently overdosing on drugs at a concert at the Bank of America Pavilion, an outdoor amphitheater, police said.

It was unclear Sunday if the potential drugs involved in the overdoses are MDMA or “Molly.” Police are investigating the incident, according to a Boston Police Department press release.

Brian Killian / WireImage

DJ Madeon performs during Electric Zoo 2013 at Randall's Island on August 31 in New York City.

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