MDMA-Related Deaths At Australian Music Festivals Under Investigation

By Victoria Kim 07/22/19

Over the span of two years, six people died from MDMA-related causes at multiple Australian music festivals. 

Australian Music Festival
ID 83280907 © Aleksandar Kamasi |

The deaths of six young Australians, all involving MDMA or a version of the drug, are being investigated. The coroner’s office of New South Wales, the Australian state where Sydney is located, opened a probe into the deaths this month.

All six of the individuals were between age 18 and 23 and died at music festivals in New South Wales between December 2017 and January 2019, the Guardian reported. There were many more hospitalizations for drug-related causes.

The coroner’s inquest has so far revealed the extent of the victims’ drug use and details about their final moments.

Dr. Death

MDMA-related causes were behind each death. One victim, 18-year-old Hoang “Nathan” Tran, was reported to have had “trace” levels of the drug PMA (known as “Dr. Death”) at the time of his death, according to a preliminary toxicology report. Tran died after attending the Knockout Circuz music festival in Sydney in December 2017.

Another victim, 19-year-old Callum Brosnan, had ingested between 6.5 and 9 capsules during the Knockout Games of Destiny EDM festival in December 2018, also in Sydney, according to detective inspector Karl Reis. One MDMA capsule later found in his bag was tested and registered 77% purity.

Brosnan’s friend, who was with him at the festival, testified that “he was just going to keep a strong mind and push through it” despite feeling unwell.

“He thought he’d be alright, he thought he’d get through it just by staying calm,” his friend said. Brosnan died in the hospital after the festival from MDMA and cocaine toxicity.

Harm Reduction

Some health experts, medical professionals and harm reduction advocates have called for pill testing to be allowed at these events. Other proposed harm reduction strategies include improving the presence of emergency medical services and providing access to water and “chill out spaces” for people having a negative drug reaction or those who just need a space to relax.

The case of Alexandra Ross-King strengthens the case for harm reduction at these events. The 19-year-old woman was reported to have ingested a fatal amount of MDMA before entering the FOMO music festival in a Sydney suburb in January 2019, because she feared being caught by police, who had a heavy presence there.

Now her family, too, is calling on Gladys Berejiklian, the premier of New South Wales, to consider allowing pill testing as a harm reduction strategy.

The remaining victims are Diana Nguyen, 21, Joseph Pham, 23, and Joshua Tam, 22.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr