For festivalgoers, the beginning of October presents the chance to enjoy live performances at Austin City Limits Music Festival. But for Alan and Debbie Hunter, the festival brings back memories of their daughter’s death.
Last year, Texas State student Jessica Hunter died of a drug overdose at ACL. Her parents, now a year after losing Jessica, said they want to encourage students to be careful about the choices they make at the event this year.
“Jessica had a real sweet heart,” Alan Hunter said. “She was my favorite person in the world.”
Alan Hunter said young people should realize “how much of an impact” their lives have on others.
“This not only impacted Jessica’s life, but everyone else’s as well,” he said.
Jessica Hunter collapsed and began convulsing on the ground at ACL after taking MDMA or ecstasy, a popular festival drug referred to as “molly,” Alan Hunter said. Jessica Hunter was taken to Seton Medical Center, he said.
The drug caused Jessica Hunter to have a “massive” heart attack.
Alan Hunter said Jessica’s friends called an ambulance, but sent her off as an unidentified “Jane Doe” because they were afraid of getting in trouble.
“That’s one of the biggest lessons of this whole thing—you cannot be scared,” Alan Hunter said. “You have to be by their side in an instance like this because the more information (doctors) have, the better.”
Alan Hunter said although Jessica’s friends didn’t accompany her to the hospital, they did give her a lot of water before medical care arrived. The doctors believed the drug combined with so much water could have caused Jessica’s heart attack.
“Her friends were trying to take care of her by giving her a lot of water, but that’s the worst thing that could have happened,” Alan Hunter said. “When you’re dehydrated and start drinking a lot of water at one time, it lowers your potassium and all other electrolytes.”
Alan Hunter said he does not understand what allure people see in drugs. However, he knows the consequences now that Jessica is gone.
Sandee Fenton, ACL spokesperson, said 75,000 people attend ACL each day of its duration.
Fenton said there are multiple medical stations at the festival to ensure care is available to anyone who may need it.
Festivalgoer Hector Blanco said when he went to ACL last year, there was an abundance of first responders for those in need of medical care.
“There were a good amount of staff willing to help others at the festival,” Blanco said. “Because of it being so crowded, I could understand how difficult it would be to assist everyone.”
Fenton said it is important to shed light on safety risks associated with taking drugs, especially after Jessica Hunter’s death.
“Our first priority is the safety of our fans,” Fenton said. “We urge all festivalgoers and after-party participants to be safe and act responsibly.”
Alan Hunter said students who go to ACL should have a “buddy system” and make a commitment to abstain from drug use. He said students should not be afraid to intervene when they see a friend trying to take drugs.
“Jessica wanted to travel and see the world,” Alan Hunter said. “I don’t want to see students gamble away everything in their future just for a maybe. It’s not worth it.”
Blanco said he could smell marijuana and alcohol in the air at ACL. He said attendees tend to get “caught in the moment” and make impulsive decisions.
“ACL is supposed to be a fun experience for all, but it’s important for people to realize their surroundings,” Blanco said. “If you see someone passed out, help them.”
Jenn Starkey, family friend of the Hunters, said those who knew Jessica Hunter are working on an awareness campaign in an effort to prevent drug use by students in the future.
“We are almost ready to put out content and share stories from students,” Starkey said. “Within the next month, we plan on having a video series that helps students and parents.”
Starkey said students suffering depression or drug addiction should not hesitate to ask for help from a parent or mentor.
“Many students understand the risks involved when taking a drug they aren’t supposed to,” Starkey said. “However, their brain is chemically inclined to process this information to where the temporary benefits of the drug outweigh what is the risk.”
Starkey said the ultimate goal of the campaign is to educate young adults.
“Surround yourself with people you know you can trust and take full responsibility to what you put inside your body,” Starkey said.