The best friends had traveled together to music festivals all over the country. Sometimes, they would take drugs. But they had one rule: Never accept drugs from strangers.
But on Saturday, after a night drinking vodka-Red Bulls at Voodoo Festival at City Park, 21-year-old Clayton Otwell, of Little Rock, Ark., apparently forgot his rule, said Mandie Newell, his best friend and companion at the festival.
A stranger, wanting to repay Otwell for helping find his cell phone, offered Otwell a free dose of 25-I, a new synthetic hallucinogenic drug. As Newell watched, her friend knelt and the stranger plopped a single drop from a vial into Otwell’s nose.
Otwell immediately started babbling incoherently, Newell said. She got him to the medical tent at the festival, but within 30 minutes, he had a seizure and never regained consciousness. Taken to Tulane University Hospital, he was placed on life support Saturday night; he died Tuesday.
“I honestly don’t know why he took it,” Newell said a few days after Otwell’s death. “I guess the drinking impaired his judgment on whether or not he should take it. I think he just felt really good for helping the kid find his phone and he trusted him.”
Otwell was one of at least three people treated for 25-I overdoses during Voodoo Festival weekend, one local emergency room doctor said, noting that friends of all three had indicated it was their first time taking the drug.
Otwell’s friends said dealers at Voodoo Fest had been offering people doses of 25-I all weekend, marketing it as artificial LSD or artificial mescaline. “This weekend, it was everywhere,” said Jarod Brignac, 24, who also was with Otwell at the festival. “The people had bottles and bottles of it; they were walking through the crowd, trying to make a dime off people at the festival.”