Family and friends of Lynn Tolocka are in shock after learning the 24-year-old from Leduc, Alberta, died on her birthday trip to the troubled Boonstock Music Festival near Penticton.
CTV Vancouver says tributes have been pouring into her Facebook page, as friends struggled to digest the news – coming only days after Tolocka had posted how excited she was for the trip.
“Happy birthday, I hope where you are you’re having fun like you did before. I miss you and one day we will meet again,” wrote Melissa Ann Merrick.
“Really, I’m in shock, I can’t believe it,” wrote Ali Gangji.
Tolocka died early Saturday morning at the Penticton Regional Hospital – one day before her birthday Sunday, according to friends.
“Peace out, Calgary, it’s been a slice. Now to beautiful B.C.,” she wrote on Thursday. “Can’t wait until I’m there at Boonstock.”
Police told reporters that it was a suspected overdose of a party drug like MDMA, although they said it would take tests to discover exactly what happened.
Tolocka’s family told CTV News they didn’t believe that she had overdosed and wanted to cancel upcoming festivals for safety.
Tolocka wasn’t the only one hospitalized – in all, 80 people were taken to emergency over the weekend, according to Interior Health.
The Boonstock Music Festival was kicked out of its original home north of Edmonton by city councilors who said it had become too rowdy and lawless.
But as the festival set up on Penticton Indian Band land near Penticton, it faced a series of obstacles: security concerns prompted the government to deny it a liquor licence, which spooked sponsors.
Its security guards were filmed allegedly stealing liquor from a nearby store.
But without liquor, drugs may have filled the void.
“The majority of hospital admittances were overdoses, which is high, and that might reflect the fact there was no alcohol,” said David Hyde, a security consultant.
Without liquor, the festival had to make money elsewhere, selling water for $4 a bottle, but Hyde said that also causes risks for anyone unwilling to fork over the money -- including heatstroke and more serious problems for drinkers and MDMA users.
“The organizers want to make money, but they need to provide essential services,” he said.
Tolocka’s death is just one of five deaths in Canadian music festivals in the past three weeks. Nick Phongsavath died at the Pemberton Music Festival, though authorities have not released the cause of death.
And three more people died at the Veld Music Festival near Toronto. Police are investigating those deaths.
Organizers at this weekend’s Squamish Music Festival say they are prepared with a detailed security plan and free water at eight stations. They will have misting stations and bottled water at medical tents as well.
As festival season continues, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall advises all partygoers to ensure they stay hydrated and be aware of the signs of heat stroke and—if they insist on taking drugs—to obtain them from a trusted, proven source.
“Drink plenty of fluids and be really aware of the symptoms of palpitations, headaches, fever, muscle aches and pains. And if you feel really ill, seek medical attention quickly,” he advised.