Grieving dad pleads for hard core festival ban

The grieving father of a reveller who died from a suspected overdose at the Defqon. 1 dance party has made an emotional plea for hard core dance festivals to be banned in what has become one of the deadliest overdose summers in history.

As the NSW government considers boosting medical staff at music events against a backdrop of five deaths of at NSW festivals in just four months, Cong Pham - whose son Joseph, 23, collapsed and died at the Penrith event on September 15 - urged organisers to end hard dance parties where he believes peer pressure to take drugs is high.

Defqon victim Joseph Pham. Picture: Facebook
Defqon victim Joseph Pham. Picture: Facebook

On Saturday Alex Ross-King, 19, from the Central Coast, became the fifth person to die from a suspected overdose after partying at FOMO in Parramatta Park, Western Sydney.

Nine were hospitalised and 36 people arrested including two charged in relation supplying drugs.

"Crowd control doesn't work, pill testing doesn't work - none of these measures tackle the root of the problem," the mourning father said from his home in Edensor Park.

"I don't want to read about another death at a festival in a newspaper - the only way to prevent deaths at festivals is to ban the hard core dance ones.

"Country music and pop music ones are fine but the peer pressure to take drugs at dance festivals is too much; the environment, the noise and type of music, means young people feel they need to take drugs to enjoy it, country music and pop festivals are different.

The victims of festival drug overdoses.
The victims of festival drug overdoses.

"The Government won't ban them because they make money from the commercial aspect of it but they need to for the sake of families like us who are still in pain"

Mr Pham said he had not yet been told by the coroner how his son had died.

"I want to know who Joseph died, we've had nothing from the coroner despite contacting his office twice," he said.

"I'm still healing, my wife is still in a lot of pain, and until we know how Joseph died in the tent that night we will not be released from our pain."

Days after alleged drug dealer Justin Neal was arrested at the fatal Defqon 1, he posted on social media "heaven's just one big bender with your homies and you never get scat".

Four days ago, Neal shared a post from the 'Scattered Sunday's' Facebook page saying "if my kid is still jobless at 13 I'm teaching the c*** how to push caps".

Neal is accused of supplying MDA and acid at the hard trance rave in Penrith where Mr Pham and another reveller died of suspected overdoses and a dozen more were hospitalised in September.

NSW Health is currently reviewing health medical staffing guidelines and increasing trained professionals at festivals.

Justin Neal is accused of supplying illicit drugs at the Penrith rave festival. Picture: Facebook
Justin Neal is accused of supplying illicit drugs at the Penrith rave festival. Picture: Facebook

 

NSW Poisons Information Centre toxicologist Professor Andrew Dawson said it would look at whether festival organisers were doing enough to prevent deaths.

"We are looking at the minimal requirements for medical services a festival needs to provide," Prof Dawson said.

"The requirements relate to the number of people at the concert and where the concert is located in relation to hospitals, and NSW Health will look at the guidelines to determine whether the numbers are appropriate.

"It is also important to make sure event organisers are providing appropriate services such as chill-out places and education."

He said the majority of drug users died due to excessive heat because drugs like ­ecstasy inhibit people's ability to regulate their internal ­temperature.

"All tablets, all the party drugs, alter the way the body handles temperature regulation, and when you combine that with increased activity such as dancing and much higher ambient temperatures it is a fatal combination," Prof Dawson said.

"There are a large number of people who are taking drugs at festivals, so in that setting you have an increased chance that people will present with overdoses.

"We are concerned people are taking multiple tablets which increases the level of toxicity in their bodies, making it harder for them to regulate their temperatures."

NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Jones backed the NSW Health push issuing a stark warning to festival owners to clean up their events.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian remains steadfastly opposed to pill-testing.

"My job is to keep the community safe at all times and if there's more we need to do we will," Ms Berejiklian said.

"But I also want to make sure we look at every opportunity to reduce those deaths. I worry that something like pill testing could have the opposite effect."



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