DEADLY FES­TI­VAL

Premier vows to shut drug-plagued De­fqon.1

The Australian - - FRONT PAGE - EMILY RITCHIE

NSW Premier Gla­dys Bere­jik­lian has vowed to do ev­ery­thing she can to per­ma­nently shut down the De­fqon.1 dance mu­sic fes­ti­val af­ter two young peo­ple died from sus­pected over­doses at the pop­u­lar event in Syd­ney at the week­end.

Joseph Pham, a 23-year-old man from Eden­sor Park in Syd­ney’s west, and a 21-year-old woman from Mel­bourne died in hos­pi­tal af­ter col­laps­ing at the fes­ti­val and go­ing into car­diac ar­rest.

NSW po­lice have re­ported that up to 15 fes­ti­val at­ten­dees were hos­pi­talised for drug-re­lated is­sues, in­clud­ing a 26-year-old woman who is fight­ing for her life at Ne­pean Hos­pi­tal.

A 19-year-old man from Ar­tar­mon in Syd­ney’s north is in a se­ri­ous but sta­ble con­di­tion at West­mead Hos­pi­tal and a third per­son is in a sta­ble con­di­tion at Liver­pool Hos­pi­tal.

Po­lice say a fur­ther 700 peo­ple sought med­i­cal at­ten­tion for dru­gre­lated is­sues at the venue and 10 ar­rests were made for drug sup­ply of­fences, in­clud­ing two 17-yearold girls caught smug­gling 120 cap­sules “in­ter­nally”.

Ms Bere­jik­lian de­scribed the deaths as “ab­so­lutely tragic”.

“I never want to see this event held in Syd­ney or NSW ever again — we will do ev­ery­thing we can to shut this down,” she said.

“I don’t want to see this ever hap­pen again — young lives lost for no rea­son.”

The man who died at the fes­ti­val, Mr Pham, reg­u­larly shared posts on his Face­book by the an­ti­s­nif­fer-dog group Sniff Off.

The last post he shared from the group was three weeks ago, rail­ing against “ridicu­lous” se­cu­rity mea­sures that were ex­pected to be taken at the De­fqon fes­ti­val.

The group mes­sage com­plained that such mea­sures caused par­ty­go­ers “anx­i­ety and guess­work” and po­lice at the fes­ti­val would “end up deny­ing en­try to peo­ple just be­cause a drug dog looked at them”.

Ms Bere­jik­lian said pill-test­ing at mu­sic events was “not a so­lu­tion”, although it is un­der­stood there was no pill-test­ing avail­able at Satur­day’s event.

“Any­one who ad­vo­cates pill­test­ing is giv­ing the green light to drugs. There is no such thing as a safe drug and, un­for­tu­nately, when young peo­ple think there is, it has tragic con­se­quences,” she said. “I’m ab­so­lutely aghast at what has oc­curred (and) I don’t want any fam­ily to have to go through the tragedy that some fam­i­lies are wak­ing up to this morn­ing — it’s just hor­ri­ble to think about.”

De­fqon.1 plays mostly hard­core techno, house and trance mu­sic and was at­tended by 30,000 peo­ple on Satur­day at the Syd­ney In­ter­na­tional Re­gatta Cen­tre where tem­per­a­tures reached 30C.

Event or­gan­is­ers, who pledged in their pro­mo­tional ma­te­rial that they would have a zero-tol­er­ance drug pol­icy, said they were “dis­ap­pointed” the pol­icy had been ig­nored.

“The or­gan­is­ers of De­fqon.1 Aus­tralia are deeply sad­dened by the tragic pass­ing of two of their pa­trons at Ne­pean Hos­pi­tal af­ter at­tend­ing the fes­ti­val,” they said in a state­ment.

A to­tal of 355 drug searches was con­ducted at the fes­ti­val, with 69 peo­ple found to be in pos­ses­sion of drugs. Ten were charged with drug sup­ply of­fences, in­clud­ing a 22-year-old man from Bankstown and a 27-yearold man from Syd­ney.

Vo Dang Phan, 33, was also charged with sup­ply­ing a com­mer­cial quan­tity of a pro­hib­ited drug af­ter he was al­legedly found with MDMA; he was re­leased yes­ter­day af­ter­noon.

Four peo­ple have died as a re­sult of over­doses at the De­fqon event, in­clud­ing 26-year-old Nigel Paulje­vic in 2015 and 23-year-old James Munro in 2013.

TNV, IN­STA­GRAM

Am­bu­lance of­fi­cers try to re­sus­ci­tate a pa­tient at Ne­pean Hos­pi­tal, main; the De­fqon.1 mu­sic fes­ti­val at the Syd­ney In­ter­na­tional Re­gatta Cen­tre, above; vic­tim Joseph Pham, right, in a photo posted on In­sta­gram on Satur­day, the day he died

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