Australia

Festival organiser didn't discuss medical services, inquest told

Defqon festival organiser Simon Coffey speaks to the media at the Lidcombe Coroners Court in Sydney. Source: AAP

The director of Sydney electronic music festival Defqon.1 has told a coroner he did not speak to the medical contractor about the doctors who would be provided.

A Sydney music festival director has told a coroner he didn't speak to the medical services contractor about the doctors who would be there or their past experience.

Simon Coffey, from Q-dance which runs Defqon.1 festival, was on Wednesday asked by counsel assisting Peggy Dwyer whether he had "relied entirely" on director Mike Hammond from Event Medical Services.

"Yes, like I had done every year," Mr Coffey testified at the NSW Coroners Court in Lidcombe.

EMS were contracted by Q-dance to provide medical staff at Defqon.1 from 2016.

Solicitor Andrew Stewart (left) with his client Defqon festival organiser Simon Coffey.
Solicitor Andrew Stewart (left) with his client Defqon festival organiser Simon Coffey.
AAP

Diana Nguyen, 21, and Joseph Pham, 23, both died after ingesting drugs at the 10th anniversary of the electronic music festival at the Sydney International Regatta Centre in September 2018.

“It was a shock to the whole company worldwide. Many people who run these festivals are in their 40s and have children, myself a 21-year-old who goes to music festivals. It was a freak situation and is absolutely devastating and it’s marked me and marked all the people involved in the company.” Mr Coffey told the inquest.

"There were two others [fatalities] in the past - one in 2013 and one in 2015."

He said he did not speak to Mr Hammond about the number of doctors who would be provided at the sold-out 2018 event or their previous training.

Joshua Tam, Hoang Nathan Tran, Diana Nguyen, Callum Brosnan, Alex Ross-King, who all died at a Sydney music festival.
Joshua Tam, Hoang Nathan Tran, Diana Nguyen, Callum Brosnan, Alex Ross-King, who all died at a Sydney music festival.
Supplied/AAP

The court on Tuesday heard there were two doctors, one from EMS and a more senior doctor from Medical Response Australia, to look after 30,000 people.

The junior EMS doctor was caring for an asthma attack and drug psychosis patients when Mr Pham arrived at the medical tent and Ms Nguyen was carried in minutes later.

Deputy State Coroner Harriet Grahame is examining the drug-related deaths of six young people at NSW music festivals between December 2017 and January 2019.

EMS was contracted for all of the events.

Nathan Tran, Callum Brosnan, Joshua Tam and Alexandra Ross-King also died from MDMA toxicity or complications of MDMA use. They were aged between 18 and 23.

Mr Coffey said one doctor per 1000 patrons, "if not more", and additional roving medical officers were planned for the future.

He said NSW Health has proposed initiatives including ensuring the right number of medics and looking after all critical care patients following the "tragedies that happened throughout summer".

But Mr Coffey said Defqon.1 will not go ahead in 2019 after the venue, near Penrith, withdrew from hosting the event.

He believes Ms Nguyen's and Mr Pham's deaths are the reason for this decision.

"At this stage, we have just put all of our events on hold until the findings of this coronial inquest come out."

He suggested Australia mimic harm reduction methods used in The Netherlands, such as pill testing, which has a "100 times bigger" festival industry but very few fatalities.

Mr Coffey said young people would find it "a very intimidating experience" to face a "wall of police" when deciding whether or not to take drugs at such events.

"Openness and willingness to talk about people who take drugs rather than demonise people who take drugs is key to the problem and they’re years ahead of us," he said. 

They also wouldn't be confident to approach a police person if they were having an adverse reaction to drugs for fear of going to jail, he added.

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