Coroner: Festival camper died of overdose

A man found dead June 19 at a Clinton State Park music festival died of a drug overdose.

Coroner Erik Mitchell reported that 29-year-old William J. Pospisil – who witnesses said went by the nickname “Squirrel” and had no permanent home – died from an overdose of methadone and cocaine while attending the Wakarusa Music & Camping Festival. The autopsy report was released Thursday.

Pospisil had family living in Key Largo, Fla., but was described by witnesses as a “transient who traveled around to music festivals,” according to the report. The witnesses said that the previous night Pospisil had drunk alcohol and taken cocaine, methadone and the anti-anxiety drug Xanax.

They said he had seizures that night and stumbled to a place where he fell asleep for the evening. The next afternoon, he was seen lying in the shade with his eyes open at one point and appeared to go back to sleep.

Later, when the spot where he was lying became sunny, some of his friends pulled him into the shade. Shortly after 4 p.m., they realized he didn’t have a pulse and wasn’t breathing.

Brett Mosiman

Brett Mosiman, one of the festival’s organizers, described the death as “a tragic accident.”

“Hopefully, by his case, people get the message that drugs are dangerous,” he said.

Illegal drug use is commonplace at music festivals such as Wakarusa, but Mosiman said he didn’t think the death should be seen as a reflection on the festival. When alcohol-related accidents involving college students happen, he said, people rarely criticize colleges for being a magnet for underage drinkers.

He said the 15,000-person festival was promoted as an opportunity to come together and hear music in a natural setting – not as a place to do drugs.

“I think that we will try to be more proactive in educating people that they can have a really great time without that stuff,” he said.

The festival was in its second year, and Mosiman said he was planning for a third. The only other major hitch in this year’s festival happened when emergency workers spent a day searching the park for a Connecticut man thought to be missing. As it turned out, the man simply left the festival without telling anyone.

A spokeswoman for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, which patrolled the festival, issued a statement saying there’s a potential for illegal drug use at any large gathering.

“Our officers make every attempt to detect and take appropriate action in these situations,” Lt. Kari Wempe said. “Our sympathies go out to the family of William Pospisil.”

Note: The online version of this story originally identified the photo above of Brett Mosiman as William Pospisil. That error has been corrected.