Homicide investigation launched after two die at Veld Music Festival
Watch above: Police investigation launched after two people die at Veld Music Festival. Catherine McDonald reports.
TORONTO – Toronto police have launched a homicide investigation after a 20-year-old woman and a 22-year-old man died at a weekend music festival.
Police say 13 other people were taken to hospital after falling ill. All had attended the Veld Music Festival in Downsview Park in the north end of Toronto.
In a media briefing on Monday, Deputy Chief Mark Saunders said all 15 people ingested what police believe were party drugs purchased at the festival.
Anyone who may have bought the drugs is being warned not to consume them and to turn them over so police can analyze them. Police have said purchasers of the drug need not fear criminal charges.
Police say they’ve narrowed down the look of the pills that made people sick to a “small brown pill” and a “small clear capsule with a white substance.”
But police don’t yet know what drug caused the illnesses.
“This is under the realm of illegal drugs. There are people who probably don’t want to come forward or see us,” said Detective Sergeant Peter Trimble during an interview on The Morning Show.
“I’m not concerned about the purchaser of the drugs. I’d like any witness to come forward and talk about who they bought the drugs from on that day or night.”
Det. Sgt. Trimble said both victims fell ill after consuming the substance and criminal charges could be laid.
“There is a potential for a homicide charge,” he said. “This is a criminal action that resulted in the death of two young people.”
Global News reporter Catherine McDonald has identified the victims as 22-year-old Willard Amurao from Ajax and 20-year-old Annie Le.
Trimble said many festival-goers were recklessly ingesting pills during the concert without knowing what they were consuming.
“Some of these people didn’t even know what they were taking,” he said. “We had some people taking upwards of ten pills, some people taking pills they found on the ground.”
Charles Khabouth, founder and CEO of INK Entertainment, one of the organizers of the Veld Festival, said in a statement that the deaths were “health-related tragedies that sadden us deeply.”
“We extend our heart-felt condolences to the families and friends of these individuals and will keep them in our prayers,” the statement reads.
Khabouth said public safety and security has always been a priority at the festival and that it “remain that way and with the highest standard of support.”
Organizers say they employed 280 security guards, 40 medics, a medical doctor, eight paramedics and 26 paid duty officers for the two-day event.
In the meantime, the Special Investigations Unit has been called in to investigate the death of Amurao.
The SIU said police spotted Amurao being carried by two people and called for an ambulance, but he became violent while paramedics were working on him.
Investigators said he was placed in handcuffs, which were removed inside the ambulance, but the man was pronounced dead on the way to the hospital.
The SIU – which probes all cases of death, serious injury and allegations of sexual assault that involve police – has assigned seven investigators to the case.