A 22-year-old woman who had paranoid delusions after taking drugs at the Electric Daisy Carnival died Monday after she fell from her Strip hotel room, according to her family and friends.
Emily McCaughan, a pre-med student at the University of Arizona, fell more than 20 stories from her Circus Circus hotel room to her death sometime after midnight Monday, the last night of the three-day music festival at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
McCaughan's family said she had taken the drug Ecstasy, a common drug used at raves.
The family was holding a memorial service in Scottsdale, Ariz., for McCaughan on Saturday and was still devastated by the news almost a week later.
"I can't handle this right now. I just can't deal with this right now," her weeping mother, Jaci McCaughan, said when reached by phone Friday.
Mignonne Walstad, the family's spokeswoman and a friend, said she wanted everyone to know that drugs were responsible for her death. McCaughan was not a regular drug user, she said.
"Damn it, they're just killers every single time," said Walstad, who said she was like a second mother to McCaughan and had known her since birth. "Please don't do drugs. ... Emily wasn't a drug addict, it was just a tragic accident."
The medical examiner confirmed McCaughan's death on Friday but had not announced an official cause of death.
Las Vegas police, who did not make the death public, said McCaughan fell from a 27th floor to a roof on the third floor. Police are still investigating the circumstances of her fall.
Walstad said McCaughan had been partying at the festival with a group of five friends who had all been taking drugs. She spoke to McCaughan's friends about the night, she said.
Sometime during the early hours of the festival on Sunday night, her friends said McCaughan began to panic after taking an MDMA pill, more commonly known as Ecstasy - a psychoactive drug with stimulant and hallucinogenic properties that can cause severe anxiety and paranoia.
McCaughan believed that a man was stalking her, and she wanted to leave the festival early, Walstad said.
"Her girlfriends from the group tried to console her and calm her down and reassure her that no one is here looking at us," she said.
But McCaughan only became more agitated. Friends took her to EDC security guards and asked them to call a cab.
The friends allowed McCaughan to ride alone back to Circus Circus, a fact that still bothers Walstad.
"A friend never leaves a friend," she said. "And they left her."
It's unclear exactly what happened when McCaughan arrived at the hotel room, but the young woman was very distressed, Walstad said.
She began sending Facebook messages to her friends at the festival begging for help, writing that "they haven't come for me yet."
McCaughan had attempted to barricade the door and had removed the SIM card from her phone so she couldn't be tracked, Walstad said.
Her friends received McCaughan's terrified messages and gathered their crew to return to the hotel. The process took about an hour, Walstad said.
By the time they got back, McCaughan had disappeared. Hotel security initiated a search and later found her body.
The petite woman appeared to have squeezed through the window bars in her hotel room.
Her uncle, Mike Kelly, said authorities found footprints on the ledge outside her window. No one in the family had doubts about what happened.
"Emily wasn't a person to commit suicide," Kelly said. "She was a happy person and had a ton of friends."
A friend of McCaughan wrote on Facebook: "EDC claims a friends life. I lost a dear friend this weekend. Been friends with her since we were in diapers."
It's unknown whether the family will pursue legal action in connection with the death.
The family of a 15-year-old girl who overdosed on Ecstasy at the festival at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 2010 and later died will receive a settlement of $190,000 on behalf of the stadium, event promoter Insomniac and a former Coliseum manager, lawyers said earlier this month. Because of the death, organizers moved the festival to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2011. This was the festival's second year in Las Vegas.
An Insomniac representative did not have an immediate comment about McCaughan's death.
"This is the first I am hearing of the tragic accident, as it did not occur at/during the event," said Erika Raney, director of communications for Insomniac.
Walstad said the family was focusing their energy on remembering McCaughan's life.
No other deaths had been reported as of Friday. A 31-year-old Florida man was still in critical condition Friday after being struck by a truck Monday morning while leaving EDC.
Emily McCaughan's father, Richard, said he was still in denial about her death. He didn't believe his daughter would have used drugs despite the reports from friends.
"I'm suspecting there was foul play, and I don't think the police are investigating it," he said.
McCaughan said his daughter was an extraordinary girl who dreamed of being a doctor. She was supposed to travel to Thailand later this year on a charitable mission and had been to Peru and Honduras, he said.
She was the type of person who was making America stronger, he said.
"She spent a lot of time trying to get everyone, including her mom and dad, to do everything right. She was living her dreams and wondering why other people weren't working hard to do the same," McCaughan said. "She was loved intensely by everybody that knew her. ... She was the glue that held this family together."
Emily McCaughan had two brothers and an older sister, Megan, who was her best friend despite their six-year age difference, he said. The family was raised in Lake Stevens, Wash., before relocating to Arizona. Friends and family in Washington held a candlelight vigil for McCaughan on Friday.
"She would have made any dad proud," he said. "The question is, can the people she loved live up to her standards?"
Contact reporter Mike Blasky at email@example.com or 702-383-0283.