Two Dead After Australia's Defqon.1 Festival, Gov't Plans to 'Shut This Down'

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The premier of New South Wales has vowed to shut down Defqon.1, after two people collapsed and died from suspected overdoses while attending the dance music festival on Saturday at the Sydney International Regatta Centre.

Police said a 23-year-old man from Sydney and a 21-year-old woman from Victoria died in Nepean Hospital after falling ill at the fest in Penrith, western Sydney, at around 9:00pm. On Monday morning local time, three others remained in hospital in critical condition.

State premier Gladys Berejiklian described the fatalities as "absolutely tragic" and said, "I never want to see this event held in Sydney or New South Wales ever again -- we will do everything we can to shut this down.” She added, "I don't want to see this ever happen again -- young lives lost for no reason."

It’s not the first fatality linked to drugs use at a Defqon event; a 23-year-old man died from cardiac arrest after apparently overdosing at the fest in 2013. And two years later, a 26-year-old man fell unconscious and died after the 2015 edition.  

"I understand there were some deaths in the past,” added Berejiklian, “but to have at least two on one night when every assurance was given to those attending that it was a safe event -- clearly it wasn't when so many people have succumbed."   

The latest deaths have triggered debate on how law enforcement should pursue recreational drug users. Greens MP David Shoebridge has joined calls for festivals to introduce pill testing, amnesty bins and other harm-minimization tactics, while Australian Medical Association president Tony Bartone said officials need to try a fresh approach to counter the drugs epidemic. "We have a serious problem,” Bartone said. “It is out of control, and we need to have a look at a raft of solutions in terms of dealing with these issues.”   

Berejiklian, however, doesn’t support a softer policy and said pill testing would give “the green light to drugs. She claimed, “There is no such thing as a safe drug and unfortunately when young people think there is, it has tragic consequences.”    

A spokesperson for Defqon.1 said they are cooperating with authorities. “Festival organizers are working closely and cooperating with the authorities regarding the fatalities and the number of medical presentations made during the evening, a full investigation is currently underway," a statement reads. "As this is a matter with the NSW Police and the coroner and out of respect for the families and friends, we are not going to speculate on the cause of death.”

According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, ten people were charged with drug supply offences at the fest, which hosted some 30,000 party-goers and was headlined by Luna, B-Front and others. About 700 party-goers required medical treatment on the day.