Mysterious deaths at Michigan’s Faster Horses music festival get national attention – Detroit Free Press

The deaths of four people this past weekend at the three-day Faster Horses Festival — billed as “the #partyofthesummer” — at the Michigan International Speedway, about 80 miles west of Detroit, are garnering national attention as authorities investigate them.

The Jackson County medical examiner’s office said Monday morning autopsies had been performed and some bodies had been released for funeral services, but deferred questions about the cause and manner of death to the Lenawee County Sheriff’s Office.

Often, the examiner will give a pending cause of death, while it awaits toxicology and other test results.

Messages were left Monday by the Free Press with authorities and festival organizers.

The deaths made national news this weekend, in part, because of the mystery surrounding them, but also because the festival is a big entertainment event, traditionally drawing 40,000-plus fans daily.

Faster Horses, which launched in 2013, is also known as the “three-day hillbilly sleepover,” because most fest-goers camp at sites in and around the race track where cars zoom around at 215 to 220 mph.

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Michigan’s first major music festival since 2019, the festival started Friday with excitement that included impromptu “U-S-A” chants, girlfriends-on-shoulders popping up across the crowd and occasional elbow-bump greetings.

Three words from performer Carly Pearce on the main stage drew one of the day’s loudest early roars as concert-goers revealed a sea of Bud Light cans: “Who’s already drinking?!”

It’s unclear how the deaths will affect the annual festival in the future.  

During the weekend, state police sought to calm attendees, saying investigators “want the public to know there is no danger or threats to people attending.” The event ended Sunday with a release of few details of the investigation.

The music festival’s status had been uncertain for months because of pandemic restrictions. The event was considered a bellwether as the live entertainment business prepares to reboot after a 15-month lull. 

National news outlets such as USA Today, CBS, CNN, People and Rolling Stone, as well as large regional publications, such as the New York Daily News, carried headlines about the deaths.

Detectives have been looking for a man who was seen with the 30-year-old Croswell woman, Melissa Havens, whose body was found at about 7:30 a.m. Saturday, and asked the public for tips to identify him.

Michigan State Police Lt. Brian Oleksyk said Monday that no new details would be released on Havens’ death until the results of the toxicology tests were back, which could take two or more weeks.

“We’re waiting on the cause and manner of death from the medical examiner’s office,” he said. “There won’t be any updates on that case for a couple of weeks.”

In addition, three men also died who appear to have been exposed to carbon monoxide inside a travel trailer.

Their names have not yet been released.

Lenawee County Sheriff’s officials received a 911 call at about 1:30 p.m. Saturday about “unresponsive persons” at a campground near the festival in Brooklyn. First responders arrived to find five unconscious men in their early 20s inside the trailer. 

Three were pronounced dead, but two were taken by ambulance to a local hospital in critical condition and were being treated for acute carbon monoxide poisoning, the sheriff’s office said. 

The festival said Sunday it was “deeply saddened by the tragic losses.”

Contact Frank Witsil: 313-222-5022 or fwitsil@freepress.com. USA TODAY and Free Press music writer Brian McCollum contributed.