Fomo fes­ti­val death: teenager's fam­ily beg Bere­jik­lian to in­tro­duce pill-test­ing

The Guardian Australia - - Headlines - Aus­tralian As­so­ci­ated Press

Rel­a­tives of a New South Wales teenager who died of a sus­pected over­dose af­ter tak­ing drugs at a mu­sic fes­ti­val have pleaded with the premier to in­tro­duce pill-test­ing to save lives.

Cen­tral coast teenager Alex RossKing, 19, on Satur­day evening was rushed from the Fomo fes­ti­val at Par­ra­matta park to West­mead hospi­tal, where she sub­se­quently died.

Po­lice and NSW Health be­lieve the teenager in­gested sub­stances be­fore her death although a post-mortem and tox­i­col­ogy ex­am­i­na­tion will con­firm de­tails.

Grand­mother Denise Doig on Sun­day said Gla­dys Bere­jik­lian should in­tro­duce pill-test­ing im­me­di­ately so other fam­i­lies would not suf­fer like hers.

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“Premier, please can we have this pill-test­ing done?” Doig told Chan­nel 10. “It’s such a small thing to do. It’s not hard [and], if it saves one life, one life is a life.”

Five peo­ple have now died in four months af­ter tak­ing drugs at NSW fes­ti­vals.

Ross-King’s un­cle, Phil Clark, told Chan­nel 10 his niece was an only child and the en­tire ex­tended fam­ily was “griev­ing heav­ily”.

“Strong lead­er­ship isn’t al­ways about stick­ing to an ide­o­log­i­cal de­ci­sion or a po­si­tion,” he said.

The NSW premier, Gla­dys Bere­jik­lian, said news of ev­ery young per­son dy­ing to drugs “tears [her] to shreds”.

“It ab­so­lutely cuts me apart when we hear about young peo­ple los­ing their lives in this way,” she said.

How­ever, Bere­jik­lian in­sisted she re­mained op­posed to pill-test­ing.

“I worry that some­thing like pill­test­ing could ac­tu­ally have the op­po­site ef­fect,” she told re­porters in Syd­ney. “In the ab­sence of ev­i­dence, we need to keep set­ting out the strong­est mes­sage that tak­ing these il­licit drugs kills. We ask young peo­ple not to do it.”

Pill-test­ing al­lows peo­ple to anony­mously sub­mit sam­ples for on-the-spot anal­y­sis to de­ter­mine their com­po­si­tion.

A trial at a ma­jor Aus­tralian mu­sic fes­ti­val in 2016 found two in three peo­ple would not con­sume a pill if a test showed it con­tained metham­phetamine.

Friend Evan James paid trib­ute to Alex on Face­book on Sun­day.

“Alex Ross-King to me was the def­i­ni­tion of a kin­dred spirit, she had a deeper un­der­stand­ing of this earth and sadly this world didn’t de­serve her,” he posted along­side a photo of him with Alex.

Fomo or­gan­is­ers said they were “deeply sad­dened” and stressed that they proac­tively dis­cour­aged drug use.

“Our most heart­felt and sin­cer­est con­do­lences go out to her fam­ily and friends,” a spokes­woman said in a state­ment. “Our anti-drug mes­sag­ing be­gan weeks ahead of the event and con­tin­ued at the event it­self.”

Ten peo­ple were hos­pi­talised af­ter the fes­ti­val, which al­most 12,000 at­tended.

Po­lice of­fi­cers searched 146 peo­ple and, of those, 54 had drugs. There were 36 ar­rests and two peo­ple were charged with drug sup­ply – a 23-year-old man and an 18-year-old woman.

Af­ter speak­ing to the 23-year-old man, po­lice raided an apart­ment at nearby Home­bush and al­legedly found 200 MDMA cap­sules, three bags of white pow­der and eight other pills.

The NSW po­lice as­sis­tant com­mis­sioner, Mark Jones, on Sun­day said Ross-King’s death was a “very tragic event”. He said law en­force­ment did not want to be “the fun po­lice” but hoped “to make fes­ti­vals safe”.

Po­lice said the drug seizures they made dur­ing Fomo were not linked to Alex’s death at this stage.

NSW Health warned MDMA and other party drugs car­ried risks.

“MDMA af­fects ev­ery­one dif­fer­ently but its lethal tox­i­c­ity is well known,” the agency said. “Peo­ple should be aware of poi­son­ing symp­toms – a fast heart­beat, high body tem­per­a­ture, con­fu­sion and vom­it­ing – and get to med­i­cal help fast.”

It is be­lieved Ross-King had pre­sented her­self to a med­i­cal tent but could not be saved.

Alex Ross-King, 19, died in West­mead hospi­tal af­ter at­tend­ing the Fomo mu­sic fes­ti­val in Syd­ney. Pho­to­graph: Dean Lewins/AAP

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