UCSD student dies of accidental overdose after on-campus music festival
A UC San Diego student who collapsed in his dormitory room after attending an all-day concert on campus died of an accidental drug overdose, according to the county medical examiner.
Ricardo Ambriz, 20, a third-year student majoring in computer science, became “unresponsive” after returning to his dorm room with his girlfriend. The two had attended the Sun God Festival, the annual open-air party where students can listen to bands and blow off steam before finals.
According to an autopsy and toxicology tests, Ambriz overdosed on a drug called 5-APB or “Benzo Fury,” a derivative of the designer drug MDA, which is linked to amphetamines.
“He was reported to have partaken of alcoholic beverages during the day and evening while attending the festival,” according to the medical examiner’s report, which was made public this week.
Witnesses said Ambriz “admitted he had taken a drug at some point in the day at the festival,” according to the report. Leaving the festival at midnight, he seemed to “freeze” and started to “reach out into the air grabbing at stuff,” the report said.
At his dormitory, witnesses heard Ambriz “talking gibberish” before he collapsed, according to the medical examiner report.
Taken to Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, Ambriz was declared dead at 2:31 a.m. May 17.
The National Institutes of Health has branded MDA as the “love drug” and warned of its dangers.
The Sun God Festival, an annual event for three decades, provides students with a day of music and fun before returning to their studies for finals.
But a growing problem with drugs and alcohol abuse at the festival has alarmed university administrators.
During the 2013 festival — which attracted upward of 20,000 people — 48 people were hospitalized, compared to 21 in 2012 and 20 in 2011. A “handful” of the patients in 2013 “were near death,” according to the Sun God Festival website.
After the 2013 festival, a task force comprised of students and academics was formed to address the issue, and this year, attendance by nonstudents was reduced for the May 16 event.
An education campaign on the festival’s website also warned of the dangers of mixing alcohol and drugs.
A police investigation after Ambriz’s death could not determine how he obtained the drug, according to a university spokesman.
Ambriz was from the Northern California community of Arbuckle. He had graduated from the Summer Bridge program at UCSD, meant to help students from culturally-diverse backgrounds prepare for success at the university.