Sheriff says Faster Horses Festival deaths ‘absolutely tragic’

The three young men who died last weekend after inhaling deadly fumes from a generator while camping together near the Faster Horses country music festival at Michigan International Speedway were close friends united in football.

Dawson Brown, 20, of Michigan Center; Richie Mays II, 20, of Jackson, and Kole Sova, 19, of Jackson, were pronounced dead after being found unconscious in an RV on Saturday, Sova’s mother Meeka Sova confirmed on Monday afternoon. .

They were with two other men – Rayfield Johnson, 20, from Jackson, and Kurtis Stitt, 20, from Hesperia – who were also numb, but alive.

Johnson and Stitt were taken from the Woodstock Township campground to a hospital in Toledo where they were still in critical condition on Monday, relatives and authorities confirmed.

“It’s absolutely tragic,” Lenawee County Sheriff Troy Bevier said. “And we warn anyone to make sure that if they are using a generator – if it’s camping or if your electricity is off – it’s in a well-ventilated area.”

Meeka Sova said the men – whom she still affectionately referred to as boys – were high school friends who enjoyed playing sports, and all of them except her son Kole also loved listening to country music.

All three were graduates of Michigan Center High School, east of Jackson.

Sova said her son is a remarkable sportsman and scholar. Dawson Brown was his little cousin and he was a year early in school. And Richie Mays and his son had graduated together.

“They all played on the same soccer team,” she said, adding that they had reconnected since leaving school. “They were hanging out in a tight-knit group of friends. A funny story, Kole didn’t like country music but started listening to it because his friends wanted him to go to Faster Horses.”

Authorities said the deaths were still under investigation, but appeared to be an accident.

They are also not linked to the death of Melissa Havens, 30, of Croswell, which occurred earlier on Saturday, also at the annual three-day Brooklyn festival which started on Friday and ended on Sunday.

Michigan State Police are investigating Havens’ death and are asking for the public’s help in identifying a man who was recently seen with her, but were unwilling to say if foul play was suspected.

The Jackson County Medical Examiner’s Office said Monday morning that autopsies had been performed and some bodies had been released for funeral services, but referred the questions to authorities.

No new details will be released by police about Havens’ death until toxicology test results come back, which could take two weeks or more, State Police Lt. Brian Oleksyk said.

The deaths made national news this weekend, in part because of the mystery surrounding them initially, but also because the festival is a big entertainment event, traditionally drawing more than 40,000 fans per day.

Faster Horses, which was launched in 2013, is also known as a “three day sleepover” because most festival-goers camp at sites in and around the racetrack where cars can zoom in. 215 mph to 220 mph.

It was also Michigan’s first major music festival since 2019, before the pandemic hit.

Bevier said he was waiting to release the names to the media to ensure the victims’ extended family had a chance to be notified.

He also said the preliminary investigation showed that a generator too close to the motorhome produced the lethal gases which killed the three men and put the other two in hospital.

Read more:

Mysterious deaths at Michigan’s Faster Horses music festival garner national attention

Faster Horses steps up party for Michigan’s biggest crowd since COVID-19 hit

Investigators were not yet sure why the men were using the generator, the sheriff said.

MLive, who was the first to report the names of the victims and the employer of one of the victim’s relatives, painted a portrait of a nearby community ravaged by the deaths of young men.

He described how the family and friends of the young men gathered in the living rooms to cry and kiss, and fondly remember them as “kindhearted, hardworking and respectful.”

According to police and reports, a friend found the five men in the camper van.

Meeka Sova said some of the parents were told something was wrong before the police got involved, as they noticed on their cell phone tracking apps that the young men had not moved since. in the morning and did not answer their phones.

As news of the deaths broke last weekend, state police sought to calm festival attendees, saying investigators “want the public to know there is no danger or threat. for those present ”.

Sova said the official cause of her son’s death is pending. The families tentatively plan to organize high school visits on Wednesday, with separate services to follow later.

Contact Frank Witsil: 313-222-5022 or [email protected] Free Press music author Brian McCollum contributed.

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