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Two die, 20 fall ill at music festival

Drugs, alcohol are called widespread at Mansfield event

By Alejandra Matos and Zachary T. Sampson
Globe Correspondents / July 28, 2012
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Two people died and about 20 were hospitalized when an electronic music tour rolling through North America erupted into a dangerous frenzy of drugs and alcohol at the Comcast Center in Mansfield Thursday.

Mansfield Police Chief Arthur M. O’Neill said Friday that alcohol and drugs — including PCP, LSD, ecstasy, and marijuana — were pervasive at the Identity Festival concert, which ran from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. at the popular venue. Forty-five people were also arrested on various drug and alcohol charges, O’Neill said.

Dominic Impelizzieri, 27, of Syracuse, N.Y., and Connor Brandon, 19, of Acton, died as a result of drug and alcohol use, according to the police chief.

“It was a return to the ’70s,” O’Neill said of the rampant drug use and drinking at the show, which featured DJs and music producers playing electronic dance music.

Mansfield Fire Chief Neal A. Boldrighini said the Comcast Center’s private ambulance service handled many of the medical emergencies Thursday night. Nineteen people, including four who were critically ill, were taken to Sturdy Memorial Hospital in Attleboro for drug-related issues, according to hospital officials. One victim was taken to Norwood Hospital for treatment and another person was taken to an unnamed hospital after stumbling out of the woods after daylight, police said.

“It was a very busy night medically,” Boldrighini said. “There did appear to be a significant amount of drug use at the concert.”

Thursday’s deaths were the first to result from drug and alcohol use at a concert at the Comcast Center, O’Neill said. A person died several years ago after falling from a climbing wall at the site, and another person died a number of years ago as a result of a heart condition.

Although there were 45 arrests, O'Neill said “there were not an inordinate amount of arrests for a show of that size,” adding “this was really an EMS problem.”

Live Nation officials confirmed that several people required medical treatment during the show Thursday night. They also said they were “aware of two people who unfortunately have passed away, and our thoughts and prayers go out to their families and friends for their loss.”

Live Nation would not comment on security measures at the Comcast Center for the show, and how the drugs and alcohol were brought in. No one at Events EMS, the private service used at the Comcast Center, would comment on the event.

The center holds about 20,000 people.

According to the Comcast Center’s page on Live Nation’s website, vendors will not sell more than two alcoholic beverages to a patron at a time. Alcohol sales end at least one hour prior to the scheduled end of a show.

“We will not serve any patron whom we believe to be intoxicated,” the policy reads. “Alcoholic beverages may not be taken into or removed from these premises. Any patron in the possession of alcoholic beverages not obtained on premises will be subject to eviction.”

Police said Impelizzieri went into cardiac arrest and was resuscitated by Events EMS, but later died at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence as a result of the substances he ingested.

Brandon died of cardiac arrest at Boston Medical Center from the effects of ecstasy, amphetamines, and marijuana, according to his mother, Lisa Brandon.

Lisa Brandon said Connor’s high school friends had tried to intervene with him about his drug use six weeks ago, but he wasn’t ready for the treatment necessary to get off drugs.

Then recently, they said, he submitted an application for a treatment program at McLean Hospital.

“He was supposed to have his phone interview on Thursday, but he chose to go to this concert instead,” Brandon said. “One of his friends called him up to go, but he didn’t have the tools to say no yet.”

Connor Brandon, a lacrosse and basketball player, was a student at the University of California in San Diego. He began using drugs midway through his senior year of high school, his mother said.

“People weren’t paying attention,” she said. “And in a matter of 18 months, he was dead. We are not proud of this, but we need to raise awareness in our community that this is an epidemic among our young people.”

His mother said Connor previously attended another rave-type concert in upstate New York called Camp Bisco.

“There always ends up being a fair amount of accidental overdoses at these,” she said. “What are we doing?”

The family of Impelizzieri could not be reached for comment on Friday.

The Identity Festival, which has so far played in Cincinnati, Detroit, and Toronto, had shows scheduled for Friday night in Bristow, Va., and Saturday in Wantagh, N.Y.

Alejandra Matos can be reached at alejandra.matos@globe.com and Zachary T. Sampson can be reached at zachary.sampson@globe.com.

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