Music festival inquest may investigate more deaths

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An inquest examining the deaths of five music festival revellers in recent months could see the addition of two more young people who died in similar circumstances.

A directions hearing before the NSW Coroners Court on Tuesday morning heard that one festival attendee who died of a suspected drug overdose between September and January had consumed up to nine ecstasy pills, of 77 per cent MDMA purity, throughout the course of the day.

Alex Ross-King, 19, who died of a suspected drug overdose after attending FOMO music festival in Parramatta on January 12.

Alex Ross-King, 19, who died of a suspected drug overdose after attending FOMO music festival in Parramatta on January 12.

Counsel assisting the Coroner, Peggy Dwyer, said that, in contrast, one of the young adults died after only consuming one tablet.

Dr Dwyer said one person who died was drinking alcohol while also consuming MDMA, while others did not drink alcohol.

“Some of the young people sought medical attention, and some did not,” Dr Dwyer said.

The court heard Ms O'Sullivan was still waiting on all the of toxicology results.

The hearing occurred 10 days after Central Coast teenager Alex Ross-King, 19, died in Westmead Hospital after attending FOMO music festival in Parramatta on January 12.

Ms Ross-King's death followed that of Josh Tam, 22, who died after taking a substance at the Lost Paradise festival on the Central Coast on December 29; 19-year-old Callum Brosnan, who died after attending the Knockout Games of Destiny at Sydney Olympic Park on December 8; and Joseph Pham, 23, and Diana Nguyen, 21, who died at Defqon.1 in Penrith on September 15.

“Is it possible that there are two other deaths that may be heard in this inquest,” Dr Dwyer said.

Joseph Pham and Diana Nguyen both died of suspected overdoses at Defqon.1 music festival near Penrith in September last year.

Joseph Pham and Diana Nguyen both died of suspected overdoses at Defqon.1 music festival near Penrith in September last year.

It is understood the two additional deaths occurred in previous years.

Acting State Coroner Teresa O'Sullivan, who presided over the initial directions hearing, repeated a recent NSW Health safety message urging revellers to seek medical help if they fall ill after consuming a substance.

“The hot weather in Australia is set to continue,” Ms O’Sullivan said, referring to the record-breaking temperatures experienced over summer.

“There are more music and dance festivals planned.”

Dr Dwyer said it was anticipated the court would look at, among other issues, the availability of water and refreshments at music festivals, the provision of shade and rest areas, and the adequacy of medical services at the relevant venues.

“It is clear that members of the public are extremely interested to learn why these young people have lost their lives,” she said.

“There may or may not be recommendations that follow but, if there are, they will be based on the objective evidence, heard in open court, and subject to scrutiny.”

Pill testing, which NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is under mounting pressure to introduce as a harm minimisation method at events, was not mentioned during the brief hearing.

Two people died after taking drugs at Defqon.1 in September.

Two people died after taking drugs at Defqon.1 in September.Credit:Ian Horner

Ms O’Sullivan said she was “truly sorry” for the grief suffered by the families of the revellers, aged 19 to 23.

“The grief that their loved ones are experiencing and will continue to experience is difficult to comprehend,” she said.

Ms O’Sullivan ordered the police investigating each of the five deaths serve their briefs within four weeks.

“I would like a substantial amount to be produced by the next directions hearing,” she said.

A further directions hearing will be held at the Coroners Court in Lidcombe and will be presided over by Deputy State Coroner Harriet Grahame.

Dr Dwyer said she anticipated the interested parties would be the victims' families, the NSW Police Commissioner, NSW Health, and the organisers of the relevant music festivals.

It is expected the inquest will get underway during the first half of this year.