Heather Bynum lost consciousness sometime during the predawn hours of July 12, 2012 — the first day of the Camp Bisco festival at the Indian Lookout Country Club.
The 24-year-old Schenectady barber arrived at the festival nearly a day before the first acts were scheduled to play and had set up a tent with friends in the campground’s VIP section. But then something went horribly awry and Bynum stopped breathing.
She was later resuscitated by medical personnel en route to Ellis Hospital, but she never regained full consciousness.
Bynum, now 25, was released from hospital care after several months but remains severely disabled.
Now Bynum’s mother is suing Camp Bisco, the campground and a host of others, claiming that their negligence led to her daughter’s condition. Among other claims in the 14-page lawsuit filed in state Supreme Court of Schenectady County this week, Deborah Bynum is accusing festival organizers and Frank Potter, the owner of the campground, of being woefully unprepared to care for injured individuals attending the three-day festival last year.
Attorney Paul Wein said Bynum faced numerous delays in getting medical attention after she was stricken. He estimated that it took roughly 20 minutes to get her adequate care, during which time she was deprived of oxygen.
“[The medical facilities] were not inadequate, they were nonexistent,” he said Thursday. “They weren’t even set up at the time.”
The lawsuit states that Camp Bisco, the campground and Potter should have realized that illegal drugs were being openly used on site. They also had the obligation to protect Bynum from “dangerous conditions existing at the festival” while she was lawfully at the Batter Street campground, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims Bynum “suffered severe and permanent injuries when she was subjected to a dangerous substance or substances” as a result of negligence on the part of organizers. This negligence stemmed from their failure to properly supervise or secure the premises and warn or otherwise protect from dangerous conditions, according to the lawsuit.
In addition, the lawsuit claims that Bynum didn’t receive prompt or adequate medical treatment when she was stricken. The claim faults Schenectady County and the town of Duanesburg for approving the requisite permits for the festival, since there appeared to be far more than the 12,000 fans and 15,000 total people on site that were specified as limits in the festival’s mass gathering and special-use permits.
“It’s a pure tragedy that didn’t need to happen,” Wein said.
Contacted Thursday, Potter said he hasn’t been served with the lawsuit or seen the notice of claim filed by Bynum’s family in November. He said the only information he’s received about the legal action has been through news reports.
“What I read in the paper is all I know,” he said.
A spokesman for the festival did not have an immediate comment about the lawsuit.
Schenectady County Attorney Chris Gardner said Bynum’s case is “an unfortunate and tragic event” but the Health Department strives to ensure safety at such events.
“Our Health Department works very hard to ensure these events are as safe as possible,” he said.
Though there were a number of overdoses at the festival, Wein said Bynum didn’t willingly take drugs. Though he declined to discuss her toxicology at the time of her accident, he said she never had a history of doing drugs and was more prone to drink alcohol.
“If there were drugs in her system, it’s more likely than not someone put something in her drink,” he said.
Wein said caring for Bynum now is difficult for her mother. Due to her condition, she often returns to the hospital for care.
“It’s going to be a lifelong struggle,” he said. “It’s really unfortunate.”