Woman ODs at B.C. Boonstock festival

A crowd of music fans gather at the Okanagan Stage at the Boonstock Music Festival in Penticton,...

A crowd of music fans gather at the Okanagan Stage at the Boonstock Music Festival in Penticton, B.C. on Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014. (JOSH SKURNIK/QMI Agency)

Dave Lazzarino and Trevor Robb, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:29 AM ET

EDMONTON - Mounties have confirmed a 24-year-old Alberta woman has died as a result of a drug overdose at the Boonstock Music Festival in Penticton, B.C.

RCMP responded to a report of an overdose death at around 1:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. The Leduc, Alta., woman was taken to hospital from the event grounds. While at the hospital, police discovered two other people were in critical condition as a result of a drug overdose.

In total, RCMP estimate a dozen other people have been taken to hospital over Friday night and into Saturday morning.

The rock festival moved from Gibbons, Alta., just under 40 kilometres north of Edmonton, to interior B.C. this year after the festival was refused a permit to return following concerns from residents about drugs, violence and vandalism in 2013.

Organizers moved the mayhem to Penticton, a town more known for its wine country than its beer bongs.

The move wasn’t an altogether smooth one. About a month before opening day, the company in charge of security for the concert backed out, citing cutbacks in safety measures and directions from organizers to keep information from police and the B.C. liquor board as reasons.

The concert then lost its liquor licence due to a laundry list of health and safety shortfalls from security problems to clean drinking water availability.

Boonstock’s Facebook page began filling shortly afterward with unhappy ticket buyers demanding refunds and asking questions.

Penticton visitors were also tweeting about the influx of rock fans.

One woman, who preferred to remain anonymous, said the first day brought a huge increase in police and ambulance noise in the otherwise relaxed town.

“I can see why it was banned from Alberta,” she explained. “Penticton went from a peaceful vacation to feeling like you’re in Vegas! Absolutely crazy!”

The negative fallout was tempered by the potential for business, though.

“The festival themselves have had their issues and their tribulations,” Campbell Watt, president of the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce, said on the first night of the festival. “But it’s been very positive so far.”

Watt explained the initial reaction was mostly one of excitement about the possibility for increased tourism, an industry that has waned in the past 15 years.

On the ground, the mood was positive.

“It’s a blast,” said Leslie Miller, an Edmonton resident who decided to forgo the Big Valley Jamboree in Edmonton for the Boonstock lineup.

“You don’t really notice with the liquor licence. You can still drink on your campsite and mingle with everyone. If anything it’s kind of better because when you go on the grounds you don’t spend money, it’s kind of not as much craziness going on when there’s no alcohol on the grounds.”

She said she didn’t have any safety concerns and the trip has convinced her to come back to Penticton whether or not there is a festival to see.

The festival runs until Sunday.


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