Tragic Death of Waterbury Man Explored in HBO’s New Woodstock ’99 Documentary
It's chilling when documentary filmmakers incorporate a victim's own words to tell their story. That's exactly what Garret Price, the director of HBO's new documentary Woodstock '99: Peace, Love, and Rage has done in his work.
The film is the first to debut in the Music Box, a docu-series that just premiered on HBO this past weekend, which is also the 22nd anniversary of the Woodstock 99 Festival, and I watched it last night. The words that Price used for his film were from the journal of a 24-year-old man from Waterbury, CT, David DeRosia.
We find out through the course of the documentary that DeRosia attended Woodstock '99 with a few of his buddies. Interviews with his friends are dispersed throughout the film, accompanied by DeRosia's animated journal entries. We eventually find out that DeRosia passed away from hypothermia/heat stroke during Metallica's set towards the end of the documentary.
I didn't know Mr. DeRosia, but I do remember when he passed away. It was a shock to hear that a man from my hometown had died at the biggest event in the music world at the time. Woodstock 99 took place in Rome, NY outside of Syracuse. An estimated 400,000 people attended, and the documentary pointed to the performers, promoters, and ultimately, the concert-goers, for the failures that occurred that weekend.
I remember that weekend very well. It was stupidly hot here in the Northeast, with temperatures solidly in the 90s and approaching 100. As you see in the film, many were dehydrated at the festival. Saturday night of the event, three of the most aggressive bands at the time - Limp Bizkit, Rage Against the Machine, and Metallica took the stage. The Director does a great job at setting up the dangerous situations leading up to DeRosia's passing.
According to an article from Syracuse.com, David DeRosia worked in Danbury at Cendant Mobility at the time of his death. He went to the festival with four friends, and showed no signs of exhaustion or any health problems when he decided to try and make it into the pit in front of the main stage during Metallica's set. The article goes on to say that DeRosia went into seizures after collapsing in the pit. DeRosia was then reportedly helped away from the scene, medically attended to, then airlifted to a local hospital where he unfortunately passed away on Monday, July 26, 1999.
In 2001, DeRosia's mother went on to file a lawsuit against the promoters and six doctors who were at the event, accusing the parties involved of negligence. As of March 2019, the lawsuit still has not been resolved.
For years, I've watched the footage from Woodstock 99, and thought that I had missed out on an opportunity to see the greatest spectacle. Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage crushed that dream. I spoke this morning to our own Lou Milano, who was there. I'm not going to go in depth, but Lou's recollection of the event is much different from the documentary's point of view.
Were you there? Did you know David DeRosia? I've always felt safe when attending concerts, but I will be much more aware of my safety and surroundings after hearing his story.