Family members of a Schenectady woman left in a coma after becoming ill at Camp Bisco in July are intending to sue the town and the promoters of the event, claiming that organizers were woefully unprepared to deal with emergencies.
The notice of claim was filed against the town in state Supreme Court in Schenectady County on behalf of 24-year-old Heather Bynum earlier this month, according to an attorney working on the case. The notice names the town, but is only a precursor to an actual lawsuit that will likely name numerous other entities, he said.
Attorney Paul Wein said a preliminary investigation has shown that the event was both larger than it was supposed to be and was unprepared to deal with medical emergencies at the privately owned Indian Lookout Country Club, which hosted the three-day electronica concert. As a result, the medical care Bynum received when she had a seizure on July 12 was woefully inadequate, leaving her with injuries that still persist, the claim says.
“All these things combined had a huge impact on her ability to handle this problem,” he said Monday.
Bynum, a barber at the Wedgeway Barber Shop on Erie Boulevard, had VIP tickets with her fiance and started camping out when the gates at the sprawling 200-acre venue opened 18 hours before the first musical acts were to begin. At some point during the early morning hours, Bynum had a massive seizure and stopped breathing.
Emergency responders were able to revive her and she was rushed to Ellis Hospital, where doctors made a grave assessment of her condition. She had more seizures, suffered a heart attack, sustained liver damage and lapsed into a coma.
In total, Ellis treated 35 people from Camp Bisco. Of those treated, 12 were admitted, mostly for drug overdoses.
Bynum fell ill the day after 29-year-old Bily Graumann was discovered dead in his tent after apparently overdosing on drugs. The New Jersey native was a popular figure among the Bisco crowd and was helping set up an event before the gates opened.
The incidents involving Bynum and Graumann along with reports of widespread drug use at the event prompted several area residents to complain to both Duanesburg’s Town Board and Planning Board last summer. Some argued the Planning Board shouldn’t have issued a special-use permit that allowed organizers to host the event at the remote site near the hamlet of Mariaville.
still in hospital
Bynum remains hospitalized at Ellis Hospital and is expected to be moved to Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital shortly. Richard DiCristofaro, Bynum’s longtime boss at the Wedgeway, said she is no longer on life support and is breathing on her own, but hasn’t been able to communicate.
“We feel she can hear what we’re saying,” he said.
DiCristofaro and other friends of the Bynum family continue to raise funds to help pay for expenses. In addition to collecting money at the Wedgeway, he said other friends hosted a benefit that raised $3,000 for the ailing woman earlier this month.
“It was a tremendous success,” he said.
Wein anticipates filing the actual lawsuit in the case within the next couple of months.
He estimated more than 20,000 people packed into Camp Bisco last summer, a figure that would have placed the event afoul of the 12,000-person cap organizers agreed to impose as part of their special use permit.
Wein said Bynum’s condition today would not be nearly as severe had she gotten proper medical attention quickly. Among other things, he said emergency medical technicians had difficulty getting to the young woman and then hauling her to an area where she could be taken to a hospital,
He didn’t discuss what prompted Bynum to have the seizure. He claimed that many of the problems that resulted in Bynum’s poor care were ones that were already identified when the festival was hosted in prior years.
“They had this problem before,” he said. “They needed to take steps to correct it and they didn’t.”