An inquest has begun into whether ambulance paramedics should be legally required onsite during large-scale music festivals following the untimely death of Gemma Thoms at Perth’s Big Day Out Festival in 2009.
As reported by ABC, 17-year-old Thoms ingested three ecstasy pills before entering the festival for fear of being discovered by police sniffer dogs.
After entering the festival Thoms was taken to a first aid tent and assessed by volunteers. Because she had obtained a wristband leading volunteers to incorrectly identify the 17-year-old as an adult, she was eventually released upon the girl’s request. Thoms passed away in hospital the next day.
The inquest has heard that the death of Thoms may have been avoided had she not been allowed to leave the First Aid. As a result, the Coroner must now consider the possibility of all large-scale music festivals ensuring there are fully qualified ambulance paramedics on hand.
At the time of Thoms’ death, NSW Greens MP Sylvia Hale spoke out against the use of sniffer dogs at music festivals, claiming that their presence is likely to cause more deaths from panicked festival-goers, similar to Thoms, but West Australian police maintained no sniffer dogs were present at Perth Big Day Out in 2009.
In 2011 Music Feeds reported that Greens MP David Shoebridge again asked for drug detection operations to stop, with police sniffer dogs targeting people who were not in possession of illegal drugs 4 out of 5 times.