WSU grad from Des Moines dies after Gorge festival
A 21-year-old Washington State University graduate from Des Moines died Sunday after being stricken at a Gorge Amphitheater concert, and officials said many others were treated at hospitals, including three who remained in serious condition Monday.
Seattle Times staff reporter
The young man who died Sunday after being stricken at a concert at the Gorge Amphitheater has been identified as Patrick Witkowski of Des Moines, according to the Chelan County Coroner’s Office.
An autopsy was performed Monday, but it could be weeks before a final cause of death report can be made, said Wayne Harris, coroner for Chelan County.
Witkowski, 21, had just graduated from Washington State University. He majored in management of information systems, according to Robert Strenge, assistant director of external communications for the university. Witkowski was a member of the Gamma Xi chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity.
A woman who answered the phone at the family’s home Monday declined to comment.
Witkowski was one of seven people attending the Paradiso Festival who were taken to Quincy Valley Medical Center in Grant County after becoming sick and then later transferred to Central Washington Hospital in Wenatchee. Three remained in serious condition Monday, said Kathy Hamilton, director of community relations.
Quincy Valley Medical Center, the closest hospital to the Gorge, treated a total of 72 concertgoers in its emergency room between Thursday and Sunday, with about 40 or 50 cases being drug- and alcohol-related, according to Michele Wurl, a spokeswoman for the hospital.
Wurl said it’s not uncommon for the hospital to see patients showing signs of drug use at amphitheater concerts.
“The severity is up because of the way they’re making these drug cocktails,” Wurl said. “From our understanding, it’s as simple as someone walking around with a baggie of pills saying, ‘Hey, do you want this?’ People don’t even know what they’re taking.”
She also said that when the hospital conducts a drug screen on patients it’s not unusual for the report to come back with no specific drugs.
The Grant County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement that it received 62 calls for service at the Paradiso Festival and arrested 23 people for various offenses, including possession or delivery of controlled substances, trespassing, obstructing a public servant, assault and disorderly conduct.
Dave Ponozzo, undersheriff for the Sheriff’s Office, said with that many people in the area there was no way to pinpoint if there was a primary person or group selling and distributing drugs at the event, though they did have undercover officers making arrests.
There were an estimated 25,000 people at the annual music festival, with many staying at the campground near the site overlooking the Columbia River, about 120 miles east of Seattle.
“We knew there were problems ... but we were shocked at the number of people who went to the hospital,” Ponozzo said.
Marissa Evans 206-464-3701 or firstname.lastname@example.org