Fomo festival death: teenager’s family beg Berejiklian to introduce pill-testing | Australia news
Relatives of a New South Wales teenager who died of a suspected overdose after taking drugs at a music festival have pleaded with the premier to introduce pill-testing to save lives.
Central coast teenager Alex Ross-King, 19, on Saturday evening was rushed from the Fomo festival at Parramatta park to Westmead hospital, where she subsequently died.
Police and NSW Health believe the teenager ingested substances before her death although a post-mortem and toxicology examination will confirm details.
Grandmother Denise Doig on Sunday said Gladys Berejiklian should introduce pill-testing immediately so other families would not suffer like hers.
“Premier, please can we have this pill-testing done?” Doig told Channel 10. “It’s such a small thing to do. It’s not hard [and], if it saves one life, one life is a life.”
Five people have now died in four months after taking drugs at NSW festivals.
Ross-King’s uncle, Phil Clark, told Channel 10 his niece was an only child and the entire extended family was “grieving heavily”.
“Strong leadership isn’t always about sticking to an ideological decision or a position,” he said.
The NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, said news of every young person dying to drugs “tears [her] to shreds”.
“It absolutely cuts me apart when we hear about young people losing their lives in this way,” she said.
However, Berejiklian insisted she remained opposed to pill-testing.
“I worry that something like pill-testing could actually have the opposite effect,” she told reporters in Sydney. “In the absence of evidence, we need to keep setting out the strongest message that taking these illicit drugs kills. We ask young people not to do it.”
Pill-testing allows people to anonymously submit samples for on-the-spot analysis to determine their composition.
A trial at a major Australian music festival in 2016 found two in three people would not consume a pill if a test showed it contained methamphetamine.
Friend Evan James paid tribute to Alex on Facebook on Sunday.
“Alex Ross-King to me was the definition of a kindred spirit, she had a deeper understanding of this earth and sadly this world didn’t deserve her,” he posted alongside a photo of him with Alex.
Fomo organisers said they were “deeply saddened” and stressed that they proactively discouraged drug use.
“Our most heartfelt and sincerest condolences go out to her family and friends,” a spokeswoman said in a statement. “Our anti-drug messaging began weeks ahead of the event and continued at the event itself.”
Ten people were hospitalised after the festival, which almost 12,000 attended.
Police officers searched 146 people and, of those, 54 had drugs. There were 36 arrests and two people were charged with drug supply – a 23-year-old man and an 18-year-old woman.
After speaking to the 23-year-old man, police raided an apartment at nearby Homebush and allegedly found 200 MDMA capsules, three bags of white powder and eight other pills.
The NSW police assistant commissioner, Mark Jones, on Sunday said Ross-King’s death was a “very tragic event”. He said law enforcement did not want to be “the fun police” but hoped “to make festivals safe”.
Police said the drug seizures they made during Fomo were not linked to Alex’s death at this stage.
NSW Health warned MDMA and other party drugs carried risks.
“MDMA affects everyone differently but its lethal toxicity is well known,” the agency said. “People should be aware of poisoning symptoms – a fast heartbeat, high body temperature, confusion and vomiting – and get to medical help fast.”
It is believed Ross-King had presented herself to a medical tent but could not be saved.