Devastated Family Of Teen Who Died After FOMO Festival Begs Premier For Pill Testing
"Premier, please. Can we have this pill testing done?"
It was the plea from the devastated family of a young woman who died from a suspected drug overdose.
Alexandra Ross-King -- known as Alex to her friends and family -- became unwell after taking a drug, suspected to be MDMA, at Sydney's FOMO music festival on Saturday. She sought attention from medical staff, and was rushed to Westmead Hospital at about 6pm.
But the 19-year-old died later that night, with her family by her side.
"We've got a family grieving heavily," Alex's uncle Phil Clark told 10 News First.
"Alex is their only child, their only daughter. There's a very wide network of family -- devastated cousins, uncles, aunties, devastated friends. It touches so wide."
Clark said he'd been watching the ongoing debate around pill testing closely, but never imagined it would touch his family.
Now, he's asking state premier Gladys Berejiklian to listen to the growing number of experts calling for the state to explore pill testing as a harm reduction measure.
"Strong leadership isn't always about sticking to an ideological decision or a position when there's possibly mountain evidence or advice that maybe something else should be tried," Clark said.
"Strong leadership is trying something different."
Fighting back tears, Alex's grandmother Denise Doig pleaded with Berejiklian directly to bring in pill testing, directly addressing the premier in an emotional plea.
"I just don't want this to go, just pass by. I'd like this to have some legacy, and that is to get these pills tested," she told 10 News First.
"The reason I want the pills tested is, we're not stopping them from being out there.
"Premier, please: can we have this pill testing done. It's such a small thing to do, it's not hard. Let's try and get it out there.
"If it saves one life -- one life is a life. And these are children. In the news, they say 'young woman'; to me, she's still a child."
'A Tragic Loss'
Alex's family said she was an intelligent, fun-loving, caring girl who worked in the family's butcher shop on the Central Coast.
Like most girls her age, she didn't know what she wanted to be when she grew up, her uncle said.
"She was a wonderful girl. Beautiful, vivacious. It's a tragic loss," Clark said.
Although she was an only child to mother and father, she had a wide network of step-siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles and friends.
"She always gave me all the love she possibly could," her grandmother said.
"Alex was the most beautiful child."
Clark said he wanted his niece to be remembered "for who she was", not for "a mistake that many thousands of other teenagers have done and managed to get away with."
Education, Not Pill Testing: 'We Hope Young People Hear The Message'
NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian earlier rejected renewed calls for pill testing, saying she worries it will do more harm than good.
"In the absence of evidence, we need to keep sending out the strongest message: that taking these illicit drugs kills lives, kills loved ones, and we ask young people not to do it."
Following the deaths of Joseph Pham, 23, and Diana Nguyen, 21, at Defqon 1 music festival in September last year, the government set up an expert panel to address festival deaths from overdoses. However, members were forbidden by the government from investigating pill testing.
The panel recommended the government strengthen drug and alcohol harm education, which Berejiklian said on Sunday is something her government is focusing on.
"We hope young people hear the message, especially where to seek medical attention if they are at these events, what signs to look out for," she said.
"We want to make sure that everybody has fun at these events and that lives aren't tragically ended, as we've seen too many times."
Five people have died in NSW from suspected overdoses at music festivals in the past six months, including Ross-King, Pham and Nguyen.
Callum Brosnan, 19, died after a suspected overdose at the Knockout Games of Destiny festival in early December, while Josh Tam, 22, died at the Lost Paradise festival shortly after Christmas.
At Saturday's FOMO festival, health officials said ten other people presented to hospital requiring medical support.
As of midday Sunday, three people remained at Westmead hospital in a stable condition.
Professor Andrew Dawson, clinical director and toxicologist at the NSW Poisons Information Centre, urged future festival goers again to seek help immediately if they or a friend consume drugs and become unwell.
"While MDMA, also known as ecstasy, has been implicated in several of the recent festival deaths, all party drugs carry a risk of harm, particularly when consumed with alcohol or other drugs, and in warmer weather if the body is already under heat stress," Dawson said on Sunday.
"MDMA affects everyone differently but its lethal toxicity is well known. People should be aware of poisoning symptoms - a fast heartbeat, high body temperature, confusion and vomiting and get to medical help fast."
Police said 36 people were arrested at FOMO, with two people being charged over drug supply. One man was allegedly caught with 200 caps believed to contain MDMA, three bags of white powder, and eight tablets.
"We all have young sons and daughters as well that go to these festivals," Assistant Commissioner Mark Jones said on Sunday.
"We're not the fun police, and we don't want to be. We just want to make sure that kids going there enjoy the festival, but they do so in a safe and responsible manner."
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