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Posted on Jul 2, 2015

Tragedy becoming all too familiar

By Jill FitzSimmons, editor QVPR

The summer is off to a cataclysmic start.
And I’m not just talking about fire season.
Sunday’s death of a 22-year-old Portland man who collapsed at the Gorge Amphitheatre and then died later at a Wenatchee hospital is unfortunately familiar.
And that’s sad. In fact, it’s tragic.
It is the second tragedy at the Gorge this season, the first being when a 19-year-old man, apparently high on a mixture of drugs, drove over tents — and the people in them — at the Gorge campground.
Sunday’s death also is the second in two years at the Gorge. Let’s not forget the 21-year-old man who died from a drug overdose in June 2013. He too had been attending the Paradiso music festival.
I see on social media many are trying to point the finger of blame. Certainly the young men who decided to put too many of the wrong drugs in their bodies must shoulder much of the responsibility.
Others have pointed at the Grant County commissioners, who earlier this year wrote to local legislators that they would not back a bill proposing a $1 surcharge on every ticket sold at the Gorge, money that then would be used to defray costs associated with the care of these concert-goers who are seen in the local hospital or cared for by the local fire district’s emergency responders.
And still others point to Live Nation, owner of the Gorge. Live Nation has said it does not condone the use of drugs at its concerts. Still, drug use seems to run rampant at several of its more notorious festivals. Condone is a word that has little action behind it.
Then there’s the Quincy Valley Medical Center, which is left picking up the pieces on these concert weekends. This weekend, hospital staff put their heads down and got to work saving lives.
The debate over the Gorge and what needs to be done to compensate the hospital has been going on for a while now. I’d like to see us move on from that debate; it distracts from the real issues.
For the Gorge, the real issue is answering how folks there are going to better keep young customers safe. For the hospital, the real issue is about getting that bad debt down and building a better relationship with the community.
I’m no expert, but to move on, a few things need to happen:
No. 1 Concert-goers need to stop being stupid. I don’t know how else to put that. Or if it will ever happen.
No. 2 Live Nation needs to move Paradiso to May, out of the heat. Why hasn’t this happened? If the answer is money, I’m sorry, that’s not a good answer.
No. 3. County commissioners need to acknowledge what our rural hospital is up against. They can do that by supporting the surcharge.
Let’s all hope tragedy doesn’t strike at the next concert.

Jill FitzSimmons is editor of the Quincy Valley Post-Register.

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