Fes­ti­val tragedies

DRUG OVER­DOSE DEATHS AT FES­TI­VALS HAVE SPARKED DE­BATE ABOUT PILL TEST­ING

WHO - - In This Issue -

MU­SIC FES­TI­VALS HAVE LONG been a com­ing-of-age tra­di­tion. Along with the first le­gal drink and club en­try that comes with turn­ing 18, there is the ex­pe­ri­ence of at­tend­ing a fun-filled day of mu­sic and danc­ing with mates. Sadly, mu­sic fes­ti­vals have be­come a source of fear for many Aus­tralian par­ents af­ter a spate of deaths from drug over­doses in the past year.

On Jan. 1, the Field Day fes­ti­val was held in the pic­turesque Do­main next to Syd­ney’s Botan­i­cal Gar­dens. But in­stead of cel­e­brat­ing the be­gin­ning of the new year, six fes­ti­val-go­ers ended up in am­bu­lances, while 155 peo­ple were ar­rested for drug-re­lated of­fences – 149 of them for pos­ses­sion, and six for sup­ply – ac­cord­ing to a state­ment from NSW Po­lice.

Ad­di­tion­ally, “Five Field Court At­ten­dance No­tices (FCANS) were is­sued for as­sault”.

One fes­ti­val-goer claimed that drug use was preva­lent on the day. “At the techno stages, there were lots of peo­ple who were clearly very in­tox­i­cated or on drugs,” he says. “I wouldn’t say ev­ery­one was on drugs, but it ap­peared from peo­ple’s ac­tions that the ma­jor­ity were.”

He says peo­ple’s be­hav­iour got worse as the day went on. “To­wards the end of the night, most peo­ple seemed pretty silly.”

In ad­di­tion to drug use, the fes­ti­val at­tendee wit­nessed peo­ple be­com­ing er­ratic and fights break­ing out. “We saw lots of peo­ple in the med­i­cal tents who were beaten up or bruised.”

For­tu­nately, de­spite the over­dose re­ports and vi­o­lence, the Field Day rev­eller said they did feel safe. “The med­i­cal pres­ence was very big, too, and they had wa­ter stands ev­ery­where and medics po­si­tioned all through­out so if any­thing went wrong help was al­ways nearby.”

While there were no fa­tal­i­ties at the Field Day fes­ti­val, two young peo­ple lost their lives at the Lost Par­adise and Be­yond the Val­ley fes­ti­vals. Rugby player Josh Tam, 22, is re­ported to have died on Dec. 29 af­ter tak­ing an “un­known sub­stance” at the four-day-long Lost Par­adise fes­ti­val in NSW, de­spite a spokes­woman say­ing the event was “strictly drug-free.”

On Dec. 30, a 20-year-old man was air­lifted to hos­pi­tal af­ter re­port­edly suf­fer­ing a drug over­dose at the Be­yond the Val­ley mu­sic fes­ti­val in Vic­to­ria. Vic­to­ria Po­lice have con­firmed that he died on Jan. 2.

Speak­ing to WHO, NSW Po­lice say the in­ves­ti­ga­tions are on­go­ing. “The deaths will be in­ves­ti­gated by the Coro­ner to de­ter­mine cause of death.”

Prior to the tragic in­ci­dent, or­gan­is­ers of By­ron Bay’s Falls Fes­ti­val cir­cu­lated a text mes­sage to those who were set to at­tend, warn­ing of a po­ten­tially fa­tal pill at the fes­ti­val. “SE­RI­OUS DRUG ALERT,” the text be­gan, “There is an ex­tremely dan­ger­ous or­ange pill in cir­cu­la­tion. Re­gard­less of pill vari­a­tion, one pill can kill. Seek med­i­cal if you feel un­well.”

Deaths from drug over­doses at fes­ti­vals are noth­ing new. In Sep­tem­ber last year, 23-year-old Joseph Pham was one of two peo­ple to die from a sus­pected over­dose at the De­fqon 1 fes­ti­val in Syd­ney.

The Stere­osonic an­nual dance mu­sic fes­ti­val was also dis­con­tin­ued in 2015 af­ter two deaths and more than 20 over­doses across the Ade­laide, Syd­ney and Bris­bane fes­ti­vals.

The drug deaths have once again sparked the dis­cus­sion about pill test­ing – whereby users can have their pills an­a­lysed for deadly in­gre­di­ents be­fore de­cid­ing whether to take them – at pub­lic events. Mel­bourne mother Adriana Buc­cianti be­lieves pill test­ing could have saved her 34-year-old son Daniel, who died from a drug over­dose at the Rain­bow Ser­pent Fes­ti­val in 2012. “We know that peo­ple, young peo­ple, will take drugs,” Buc­cianti said. “We need to pro­tect these young peo­ple from them­selves.”

Bris­bane man Josh Tam died in Gos­ford Hos­pi­tal af­ter the Lost Par­adise mu­sic fes­ti­val in Glen­worth Val­ley, NSW.

“Ev­ery­where we looked, there were packs of four or five po­lice­men with snif­fer dogs,” says a fes­ti­val-goer.

The Be­yond the Val­ley fes­ti­val, where a young man suf­fered a drug over­dose and later died.

Af­ter the deaths at De­fqon 1 last year, NSW Premier Gla­dys Bere­jik­lian said, “I never want to see this event held in Syd­ney or New South Wales ever again.”

Buc­cianti lost her son Daniel in 2012.

Joseph Pham died on Sept. 15.

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