A 21-year-old man died from an apparent drug overdose early Saturday at the popular New York City nightclub Twilo, where German trance DJ/producer Paul van Dyk was performing.
James Wiest, a student at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, collapsed on the club's dance floor at 6:50 a.m., according to a police report. He was rushed to St. Vincent's Hospital, where he was pronounced dead just before 8 a.m.
The report indicated that friends who were with Wiest at the time said he had taken ecstasy, which can make users susceptible to overheating and dehydration that can lead to death.
An autopsy was performed Sunday, but Megan Cuccia, a spokesperson for the New York City Medical Examiner's Office, said, "Further investigation needs to be conducted before we can determine the cause and manner of his death."
A spokesperson for Twilo said the club had no comment.
Peter R. Sullivan, a lawyer for Twilo, told The New York Times that Wiest had ingested GHB, or gamma hydroxybutyrate, a liquid sedative-hypnotic originally developed as a sleep aid that is sometimes referred to as the "date rape drug." When combined with alcohol, GHB can be fatal.
Sullivan said Twilo had hired a large, highly experienced security force to monitor the club.
"We are working very hard to try and ensure that our establishment is lawful and safe, and we are as devastated as we can be about this," Sullivan told the Times. He could not be reached for comment.
Twilo, a renovated warehouse in Manhattan's West Chelsea neighborhood and the former site of the legendary early '90s nightclub Sound Factory, is facing a lawsuit from the city. The suit contends that the open use and sale of designer drugs such as ecstasy inside the venue create a public nuisance.
According to the Times, the lawsuit, which seeks to shut down Twilo, was brought by the Police Department's Civil Enforcement Division in November 1998, five months after another drug overdose was linked to the club.
In an interview Friday before his performance, van Dyk discussed the reported increased use of ecstasy among young people and the seemingly nationwide crackdown on dance clubs. (He was not available for comment Monday.)
"To prevent people from taking drugs, you have to change the environment they live in, not the way they celebrate when they have a good time," he said. "Closing clubs is completely bullsh--. People are not going to go home. They're going to hang out on the street. And the possibility that they're going to come into contact with even happier drugs than ecstasy is very much more likely than if they stay in the clubs until 6 a.m. and then go home and sleep."
Van Dyk said drug culture and electronic music are not so intertwined as the press and government make them out to be.
"There are at least as many people not taking anything at all as people taking [ecstasy] from time to time, which I still don't think is that bad," he said. "But, obviously, you have maybe 5 percent of [club-goers] that completely overtake them. It has nothing to do with the music. They were probably taking those heavy drugs when they were listening to grunge music or whatever. They don't get along with their lives, so they escape into drugs. But clubbing is not escaping, clubbing is enjoying yourself."
Van Dyk, who has a bimonthly residency at Twilo, recently released his third full-length album, Out There and Back. Its first single, "Tell Me Why (The Riddle)" (RealAudio excerpt), features singer Sarah Cracknell of Saint Etienne.