Family sues over Central Coast music festival death

Baylee Gatlin

The family of a 20-year-old Ventura woman who died last year after falling ill at a the Lightning in a Bottle music festival in southern Monterey County has filed a lawsuit against the promoter of the event. San Luis Obispo County’s former coroner is also named in the lawsuit.

Last May, Baylee Gatlin attended the three-day music festival at Lake San Antonio. After becoming ill, Gatlin was transported to Twin Cities Community Hospital in Templeton, where she died hours later.

Witnesses said Gatlin used LSD at the festival, according to the SLO County Sheriff’s Office. A SLO County coroner detective also said Gatlin was in possession of methamphetamine and marijuana.

In a lawsuit against Do Labs, the promoter of the music festival, Gatlin’s family alleges that the Ventura woman did not receive proper medical attention for hours after falling ill from possible drug use. The suit alleges qualified medical personnel were not present at the festival.

Lightning in a Bottle had previously acknowledged on its website that drug uses occurs at the event, and organizers claimed a variety of safety protocols were in place to reduce harm.

After conducting an autopsy, former SLO County coroner Gary Walter, who is named in the lawsuit, ruled that Gatlin died of an LSD overdose at the music festival. Multiple medical experts then rejected Walter’s finding. At the time, Walter was already under fire for several questionable cause of death rulings, as well as a DUI.

Walter later reversed his ruling on Gatlin’s cause of death, changing it to multi-organ failure, hyperthermia and dehydration. Around the same time, SLO County parted ways with Walter and hired a full-time forensic pathologist to replace him.

Earlier this year, the California Medical Board decided that Walter can keep his medical license, but he must serve three years of probation over a DUI offense. The DUI conviction stemmed from a 2016 incident in which Walter committed a hit-and-run in San Luis Obispo while on his way to perform an autopsy.

The 2018 Lightning in a Bottle festival is currently underway at Lake San Antonio. It is taking place Wednesday through Monday.

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