News out of Washington DC earlier this week, police has confirmed that a 19-year old woman tragically passed away at Echostage in Northeast D.C. during a Flume concert. The patron, Victoria Callahan, of Sterling, Virginia, was transported by ambulance in critical condition to MedStar Washington Hospital Center around 12:00AM, where she later died.  MedStar Washington confirmed that she passed away after being taken to the emergency room.

Reportedly, Victoria had been celebrating her 19th birthday and under the influence of MDMA. She was a sophomore at Coastal Carolina University with aspirations of Marine Biology. Sadly this kind of tragedy is not an isolated incident. This would be the second MDMA-related death within two years at Echostage, the first being 19-year old Shelley Goldsmith of the University of Virginia who collapsed back in the summer of 2013.

Shelly’s shocking death came on the same day two others died from overdosing on molly at the Electric Zoo music festival on Randall’s Island in New York in 2013. The toxicologist showed that the patrons had taken a fatal mix of MDMA and methylone, a closely related stimulant that is also sold under the name molly – commonly used to cut MDMA, law enforcement officials say.

Victoria Callahan

This news always comes as a shock to the dance music community, as their legacy should be of young scholars enjoying themselves and the music they love rather than dying from an illicit drug. “Shelley deserves a legacy of being someone who cared for people, someone who achieved, someone who contributed, and not a druggie who died,” her father, Robert Goldsmith. With Victoria’s recent death, there may need to be a spark for open dialogue about safety and electronic dance music.

Shelley’s mother, Dede Goldsmith, attempted to start that open dialogue. Shelley’s death prompted her to start the Amend The Rave Act movement. As she stated, Shelley was an honor student who was an inspiration to all those around her, not just a drug statistic. What Amend the Rave Act desires is to emphasize harm reduction at these kinds of events, alongside all the law enforcement measures. Too many young people are dying and the 2003 RAVE Act could be part of the problem since it prevents the implementation of common sense harm reduction measures at these events.

What exactly does the RAVE Act do? In essence, it made it easier for venue owners to be prosecuted for maintaining “a drug-involved premises.” However, in a practical sense, the language has created a dangerous situation by discouraging legitimate concert and festival organizers from enacting common sense safety measures to protect their patrons — free water, well ventilated and air conditioned, drug education, and other harm reduction services that could possibly save lives.

Of course, it purely isn’t just legislation and policy that contributes to young people’s deaths at these events but a multitude of factors. As you enjoy this festival season and see your favorite artists, be keen on educating yourself and understanding what measures to take in keeping you, your friends, and your family safe.