Man ‘critical’ after apparent overdose at Ballarat festival, another dies at NSW event

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Several hours later, a 24-year-old man died of a suspected drug overdose at the Strawberry Fields music festival, just across the Victorian border in NSW’s south-west.

The man was taken to the medical tent at 12.45am on Sunday at the Tocumwal festival, around 50 kilometres north of Shepparton.

Medical staff were told he had taken MDMA, cocaine and GHB. He suffered a cardiac arrest and was pronounced dead shortly after 2am.

Melbourne Lord mayor Sally Capp backed a controversial pill-testing trial in Melbourne earlier this month, despite Premier Daniel Andrews reiterating the government’s opposition to the proposal.

“I do not endorse anyone taking illicit drugs – but in the face of evidence that people are taking these drugs we simply cannot stick our heads in the sand,” Cr Capp said.

On November 12, the Melbourne City Council voted to endorse a submission backing draft legislation being submitted to State Parliament by Greens MP Tim Read to trial a free mobile pill-testing service at festivals and a fixed-site laboratory for drug analysis.

Police are investigating the circumstances around the 24-year-old man’s death at the Strawberry Fields event and a report is being prepared for the NSW coroner.

Organisers of the Strawberry Fields music festival said in a statement online they had “implemented every single harm minimisation strategy that is legally available to us”.

“However, we cannot control the choices of individual patrons. We are begging people to stop and think about the ramifications of their choices on their family and friends and to stay safe.”

Full details of drug arrests at Ballarat’s Spilt Milk festival will be released later today.

Ballarat police Inspector Dan Davison confirmed to the Ballarat Courier that a number of patrons were arrested for drug dealing on Saturday.

Revelers at Ballarat's inaugural Spilt Milk music festival at Victoria Park

Revelers at Ballarat’s inaugural Spilt Milk music festival at Victoria Park Credit:Adam Trafford/The Courier

He said police were concerned by the attitude towards recreational drug use, with many people questioned for drug possession directed towards diversion programs.

The Ballarat region has a chequered history with drugs at music festivals, with seven hospitalisations due to drug use following the Rainbow Serpent music festival in Lexton earlier this year.

There were a further 10 arrests for drug trafficking and 54 drug notices issued at the four-day dance music event in January.

In 2017, 22-year-old Jacob Langford died of a drug overdose at the Rainbow Serpent music festival.

Adriana Buccianti, the mother of 34-year-old Daniel who died of a drug overdose at the same festival in 2012, came out in support of pill testing earlier this year.

– With Pallavi Singhal and the Ballarat Courier

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