One wild party: four tragic deaths Dangers of drug-fuelled social media events | Sunday Observer

One wild party: four tragic deaths Dangers of drug-fuelled social media events

The interior of the hotel after the party
The interior of the hotel after the party

The grand finale to the wild party was not exactly what the four expectant and carefree youth had in mind, when they paid with an arm and a leg to enter ‘Heaven’s Gate’ to be entertained by a world renowned Israeli DJ at a popular hotel in Wadduwa.

Yet, it was to be their last dance, if only they had known! Their knack for fun-at-any-means came at great cost. And the sudden departure of the four young men left a permanent scar in the hearts of their loved ones, but never the make-do facebook friends - a reality dawned too late for them.

After nearly a week the Wadduwa police arrested the owner of the social media event planning company, Heaven’s Gate Amila Pushpakumara (37) and a manager Eranda Danthanarayana (37) on Thursday at 6 pm.

The fun filled social media event highly advertised via Facebook turned out to be a horrific experience for many with the guests wondering if it was a Heaven’s Gate to hell. An officer in the Wadduwa police SOCO unit said, the wild party was just one among many in the beach front hotels in the coastal belt. “We can’t keep count of these parties, it is an affair of illicit and contaminated drugs, booze and mind boggling music” .

These functions that often happen with political patronage take place unhindered, he said.

The mystery deaths of the four men have raised alarm bells of drug fueled wild parties that are happening in Sri Lanka below the surface. But as proven time and again, the uproar and the call to rein in any breather for untoward occurrences would soon die down, before even dust settles on the incident. The officer in charge of the case at the Wadduwa Police, said they did not find any traces of illicit narcotics or drugs used in the DJ party “They have been careful to wipe off any of the traces of drug use, but we are continuing the investigations,” he said.

The crime scene investigators have collected polythene wrappers, a collection of toffees, chocolates, empty TicTac boxes, a certain brand of lollipops, chewing gum, two foreign brands of expensive scotch whisky and two brands of beer and cigarettes. The samples have been sent to the Government Analyst for testing, along with samples of urine, bowel and liver extracts of the deceased.

Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne told the Sunday Observer that he was being unfairly targeted by political rivals who tried to connect him with the tragic event that happened at Saffron Beach Hotel in Wadduwa a week ago, simply because Kalutara happened to be his electorate.

The allegation was that the current OIC of Wadduwa police station was brought in recently on my call, after transferring the former OIC. And the new OIC had given permission to the party.

“Such hotel parties do not need special permission from the police. But the event organisers have sought police permission on June 21, much before the former OIC of Wadduwa police station was transferred. It was not given by the new OIC, as claimed by certain people.

“As for the claim that my sons had a hand in it, I must say they are not the type to go clubbing and partying in that manner,” the Minister said responding to allegations by the National Freedom Front and related posts in the social media.

The report of the Government analyst is to be submitted at the next hearing of the magisterial inquiry on August 21.

A party-goer who wished to remain anonymous said, “I saw two people collapse due to the unbearable heat that was inside the hall and there was a cloud of dust inside. When I saw them collapse I asked a friend to take them out. The heat was about 47 degrees Celsius. Our clothes were drenched, all were perspiring uncontrollably. “

The event hall was not more than 36 feet long and 28 feet wide. A hotel source said an unusual number of mineral water bottles were sold on the night of the party, seemingly their thirst was unquenchable.

Some left the hall from time to time to catch a breath of fresh air and keep off the unbearable heat. Drenched in sweat, others climbed up to the upper floor of the partly constructed building to enjoy the sea breeze.

The building hired for the event was under construction. The floor was tiled in certain places, the walls had rough cement and were not painted. According to the Police it was not enough to accommodate 1,800 – 2,000 people. After the incident, the police sealed off the building until investigations are over.

An invitation posted on Facebook, revealed that an ordinary ticket was sold at Rs.3,000 while the VIP tickets cost Rs.5,000. The guests obviously had to buy the expensive liquor and the accompaniments. The hotel did not have a liquor licence, it was compensated by a license issued to the organisers valid for six hours from 6 pm to midnight on August 4.

It is believed the organizers, who had arranged tight security to the venue through a private security firm, had handed a certain drug in the form of a pill to the guests upon arrival. A hospital source said, the doctors suspected that this drug may have caused a toxic reaction in the four deceased leading to multiple organ failure.

Despite the organizers’ social media campaign boasting of an evening of seminal melodies, at a dream location, the place offered everything sub standard, from the venue to everything else. The men had collapsed in the early hours of Sunday and were rushed to hospital.

There had been an ambulance standby, as if the organisers expected the event to be jinxed. One guy was pronounced dead upon admission to the Panadura Base Hospital while the other three died, in the Preliminary Care Unit and the ICU, hours later.

A spokesperson from the Preliminary Care Unit of the Panadura Hospital who attended to the deceased when they were rushed to the hospital said, their temperature was as high as 41 degrees Celsius at the time of admission.

Three of those who met with the tragic and untimely deaths have been identified as 36 year old Eranga Perera of Kesbewa, Melan Chamika aged 21 of Divulapitiya and Viduranga Deshan aged 31 from Moronthuduwa. The fourth is 28 year old Kavinda Manoj from Pothuhera.

Consultant JMO Uthpala Attygalla at the Panadura Base Hospital performed the post-mortems on the deceased. The coroner had given an open verdict pending the report of the Government Analyst. The samples of the organs have been sent for further testing at the Government Analyst’s after the symptoms of the four men baffled the doctors.

The witness accounts which recounted the shocking after party scenes the next morning, described how there had been men, boys and girls sprawled outside the venue, in a half sleeping or semi conscious state. The party ticket said the event will be held from 6 pm on August 4 to 6 am the following morning.

What exactly happened at the party venue between that, fateful August 4 evening from 6 pm to 6 am the following day is still a mystery. The police are still struggling to piece together and recreate the sequence of events with rumors, hearsay and politically driven speeches making their job particularly tough.

Eranga, the brother of one of the dead boys who also attended the DJ party said he left the venue early to go to an alms giving the next day. “I was also there. I can’t think what went wrong. The organisers must be held accountable, he told the Sunday Observer amid preparations for his brother’s seventh day Bana sermon on Friday.

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