DEATH DANCE

4 drug fa­tal­i­ties in 5 years. How does this hap­pen?

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - - Front Page - MATTHEW BENNS & SAM McBEATH

A DANCE mu­sic fes­ti­val with an ap­palling record of drug deaths and in­jury has taken a fur­ther two young lives from sus­pected over­doses and left three more fight­ing for sur­vival — leav­ing jus­tice cam­paign­ers ques­tion­ing how it was al­lowed to go ahead this year.

The Daily Tele­graph can re­veal 23-year-old Joseph Pham (right) is one of the fa­tal­i­ties from Satur­day night’s “De­fqon. 1” event in Pen­rith.

Con­fir­ma­tion of his death came as po­lice were still sort­ing through the af­ter­math of a party so drug-in­fested that 10 peo­ple were charged with pos­ses­sion — in­clud­ing two 17-year-old girls car­ry­ing 200 pills each.

FOR months Joseph Pham had been post­ing ex­cit­edly on so­cial me­dia about the Syd­ney mu­sic fes­ti­val where he went into car­diac ar­rest and died from a sus­pected drug over­dose at the week­end.

The 23-year-old from Eden­sor Park was one of three rev­ellers at the De­fqon. 1 hard trance fes­ti­val in Pen­rith who had heart at­tacks at the same time. A 21-year-old woman from Victoria also died.

Shocked Premier Gla­dys Bere­jik­lian yes­ter­day vowed to shut down the fes­ti­val — where two peo­ple had al­ready died in the pre­vi­ous year — with another three young rev­ellers fight­ing for their lives in hos­pi­tal.

“I’m ab­so­lutely aghast at what’s oc­curred. I don’t want any fam­ily to go through the tragedy that some fam­i­lies are wak­ing up to this morn­ing,” Ms Bere­jik­lian said. “This is an un­safe event and I’ll be do­ing every­thing I can to make sure it never hap­pens again.”

Mr Pham reg­u­larly re­posted mes­sages on his Face­book page from Sniff Off, which ar­gues against the use of po­lice sniff- er dogs. The last one he shared de­scribed the “ridicu­lous” lev­els of “anx­i­ety” the use of po­lice dogs put rev­ellers through as they at­tended Satur­day night’s fes­ti­val.

As many as 700 of the 30,000 rev­ellers at the Syd­ney In­ter­na­tional Re­gatta Cen­tre sought at­ten­tion from medics, who were re­spond­ing to mul­ti­ple re­ports of sus­pected drug over­doses.

“It was a very trau­matic scene, we had three pa­tients in car­diac ar­rest si­mul­ta­ne­ously,” NSW Am­bu­lance li­ai­son of­fi­cer Kather­ine Rallings said. “It is so hard when you lose any­body, par­tic­u­larly young peo­ple. This is a sense- less waste of life. No party is worth risk­ing your life for.” Lo­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tives of QDance, the Nether­lands-based or­gan­is­ers of De­fqon. 1, said: “We are dis­ap­pointed at the num­ber of re­ported drug-re­lated in­ci­dents. We have a zero-tol­er­ance pol­icy in re­la­tion to drug use at the fes­ti­val.” Two other young Aus­tralians have died at De­fqon events in the past five years. In Septem­ber 2015 Nigel Paulje­vic, 26, died af­ter be­ing found un­con­scious in a tent and in 2013 James Munro, 23, died from a sus­pected ec­stasy over­dose. Mr Paulje­vic’s fa­ther Mita yes­ter­day said that noth­ing had been learnt since his son’s death. “There’s so much of it around and the deal­ers push you to take it so they can make an easy buck,” he said. “Drugs will never go away, the po­lice should test them on the spot and make sure they’re not full of dan­ger­ous sub­stances.” But young par­ty­go­ers re­main obliv­i­ous to the dan­ger, with one tweet­ing joy­fully on Satur­day night: “Just saw a video on Face­book of my brother at De­fqon with his eyes rolling back in his head. How’s your night go­ing?” Po­lice con­ducted 355 drug

This is a sense­less waste… no party is worth risk­ing your life for.

Kather­ine Rallings, NSW Am­bu­lance

searches on Satur­day night and found 69 peo­ple in pos­ses­sion of nar­cotics, in­clud­ing two 17-year-old girls who were at­tempt­ing to smug­gle 120 cap­sules into the event in­side their bod­ies. They were among 10 peo­ple charged.

But one fes­ti­val-goer told The Daily Tele­graph there were fewer po­lice at the event than pre­vi­ous years. “In the past you would have to walk past at least 20 po­lice of­fi­cers with snif­fer dogs on your way in,” she said. “This year I only saw three dogs. I wasn’t searched on my way in.”

One of those charged with sup­ply­ing a pro­hib­ited drug, Alexan­der Naberezh­non, 27, ap­peared in Par­ra­matta Lo­cal Court wear­ing a “Co­caine and Caviar” brand hoodie and was re­fused bail af­ter claim­ing he was paid $300 to carry ec­stasy pills and mo­bile phones into the event. “He is what is com­monly de­scribed as a mule,” Mag­is­trate Peter Ash­ton said. “If some­one gets a dud dose and dies then he’s just as com­plicit as the real sup­plier.”

Viet­namese in­ter­na­tional busi­ness stu­dent Vo Dang Phan, 22, was granted bail on a charge of sup­ply­ing a com­mer­cial qual­ity of drugs af­ter po­lice al­legedly caught him with 20 soy sauce bot­tles filled with the drug GHB worth $1000. A third man, Dou­glas Wood, 33, from Mount Pritchard had his case for sup­ply­ing a pro­hib­ited drug ad­journed un­til to­day af­ter po­lice alleged he was caught car­ry­ing 243g of MDMA.

Po­lice have set up Strike Force High­worth to investigate the deaths of Mr Pham and the 21-year-old woman. They said 13 fes­ti­val-go­ers had gone to Ne­pean Hos­pi­tal for treat­ment.

A 26-year-old woman re­mains in a crit­i­cal con­di­tion and a 19-year-old man from Ar­tar­mon was flown to West- mead Hos­pi­tal where his con­di­tion sta­bilised. Another 20year-old man was se­ri­ously ill in Liver­pool Hos­pi­tal.

“We never seem to learn,” said drug cam­paigner Tony Wood, whose 15-year-old daugh­ter Anna died af­ter tak­ing ec­stasy at a Syd­ney dance party in 1995. “It is ab­so­lutely dis­ap­point­ing, I just feel so sorry for the par­ents of the peo­ple who have died. Grief is a con­stant thing and it never goes away. It’s al­ways just be­low the sur­face.”

Satur­day night in Syd­ney was ab­so­lutely beau­ti­ful. It was one of those per­fect Syd­ney spring evenings, rich with sum­mer prom­ise. Across the city, peo­ple en­joyed long, slow walks just to ex­pe­ri­ence the night’s won­der.

Trag­i­cally, for two young adults at Pen­rith’s De­fqon.1 mu­sic fes­ti­val, Satur­day night was the last night of their lives.

Aged just 23 and 21, the fes­ti­val at­ten­dees suf­fered fa­tal heart at­tacks fol­low­ing sus­pected drug over­doses. A third heart at­tack vic­tim clings for life in hos­pi­tal.

“It was a very trau­matic scene,” NSW Am­bu­lance li­ai­son of­fi­cer Kather­ine Rallings said as an evening at the Syd­ney In­ter­na­tional Re­gatta Cen­tre went from cel­e­bra­tory to ter­ri­fy­ing.

“We had three pa­tients in car­diac ar­rest si­mul­ta­ne­ously. It is so hard when you lose any­body, par­tic­u­larly young peo­ple. This is a sense­less waste of life. No party is worth risk­ing your life for.”

The raw sta­tis­tics read like a ca­su­alty count af­ter a ter­ror­ist at­tack: two dead, mul­ti­ple oth­ers in crit­i­cal con­di­tion and some 700 re­quir­ing med­i­cal in­ter­ven­tion at the fes­ti­val site.

Shock­ingly, the fi­nal Face­book mes­sage shared by ap­par­ent drug vic­tim Joseph Pham de­scribed what he said were “ridicu­lous” lev­els of “anx­i­ety” caused by the use of po­lice dogs at the fes­ti­val.

Yet other at­ten­dees said there were fewer po­lice at the event than in pre­vi­ous years. “In the past you would have to walk past at least 20 po­lice of­fi­cers with snif­fer dogs on your way in,” she told The Daily Tele­graph.

“This year I only saw three dogs. I wasn’t searched on my way in.”

In the wake of this tragedy, po­lice must re­vise and in­crease their use of snif­fer dogs and other means of drug de­tec­tion at th­ese and sim­i­lar events. That is if, of course, if such oc­ca­sions are per­mit­ted to con­tinue.

Premier Gla­dys Bere­jik­lian is presently of a mind to ban the events out­right — and few, at the mo­ment, would sen­si­bly ar­gue oth­er­wise.

“I’m ab­so­lutely aghast at what’s oc­curred. I don’t want any fam­ily to go through the tragedy that some fam­i­lies are wak­ing up to this morn­ing,” the Premier said. “This is an un­safe event and I’ll do every­thing I can to make sure it never hap­pens again.”

The Premier should also push for tougher anti-drug le­gal penal­ties. Young lives are at stake.

Pic­ture: Dy­lan Robin­son

Vo Dang Phan leaves Am­ber Lau­rel Cor­rec­tional Cen­tre in Emu Plains af­ter be­ing bailed on drug charges.

A hoodie like that worn by sus­pected ‘mule’ Alexan­der Naberezh­non.

Pic­tures: Face­book, TNV

Joseph Pham, who died af­ter what is be­lieved to be a drug-re­lated heart at­tack at De­fqon. 1, and (left) huge crowds at the fes­ti­val, and (above left) paramedics work on one of the peo­ple taken ill at the fes­ti­val.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.