The death of 14-year-old Hannah Bruch after attending a concert at Expo New Mexico in Albuquerque is tragic, as is the death of any young person for any number of causes. But Hannah’s death leaves questions that beg for answers.
Hannah, who lived in Santa Fe, was attending the Foam Wonderland show – basically a rave – at the Villa Hispana with some older friends last Saturday. On the bill were bands Luminox and Triad Dragons. The concert drew 3,000 people to revel in a foam and light show and to dance to thumping music that neighbors said shook their windows.
It was billed as an event intended for those 16 and older with alcohol only served to those 21 and up with a valid ID in a separate beer garden. In reality it appears the event was open to all ages, although officials say drinkers were carded. An Expo spokesman was unsure if IDs were required to get in.
After the show started, Hannah didn’t feel well, was checked out by paramedics and sent to UNM Hospital where she died. On orders of the governor, New Mexico State Police have launched a priority investigation into her death. Expo New Mexico has halted all-ages and electronic concerts while it re-evaluates its policies about booking events and waits for results of the investigation and autopsy.
Hannah’s father speculated that peer pressure and drugs killed his daughter. He told the Santa Fe New Mexican he had heard rumors about Hannah trying Ecstasy, an illegal hallucinogen that often is part of the scene at concerts and raves, while at the show. Meanwhile, a friend says Hannah had told him that she did not intend to do Ecstasy that night.
The immediate question is whether this kind of show was appropriate for a 14-year-old to attend. A manager for Luminox called it “irresponsible” and said his band’s shows generally are for those 18 and older. State Fair Commissioner Charlotte Rode said events that mix young children and inebriated adults are problematic and she’s heard they sometimes involve Ecstasy. Rode also said blamed lack of oversight of Expo’s decision-making, noting the commission only has met twice in the last two years.
All-ages events have been a problem in Albuquerque for years (remember Club 7?) and Expo isn’t the only place they are held.
Until the State Police completes its investigation, we won’t know what caused Hannah’s death. Even then it might not be clear whether Expo is culpable. But Expo New Mexico should proceed with giving its policies for events – including security and setting clear age limits – a long, hard look. And then make any necessary changes accordingly.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.