Digital art for The Daily Telegraph
Digital art for The Daily Telegraph

Teen’s hour wait for ambulance before festival drug death

An inquest has heard how an emergency doctor shouted for an ambulance twice as he attempted to revive Joseph Pham whose mouth was "wired shut" before his death at Defqon. 1 music festival.

Emergency medical doctor Andrew Bashara was frantically attending an asthma attack patient and a reveller suffering from MDMA-induced psychosis at the sold-out 30,000-crowd event when Joseph, 23, presented unconscious at the resuscitation bay at 7.34pm last September.

Senior doctor in charge Sean Wing was attending to unconscious reveller Diana Nguyen, who had taken two MDMA capsules, when doctor Bashara urged the head of medical support company Event Medical Services (EMS) to arrange an ambulance.

Joseph Pham.
Joseph Pham.

 

Diana Nguyen.
Diana Nguyen.


"It was extremely busy, that day was incredibly windy, I was treating everyone, a lot of dehydration, I was managing a psychosis post MDMA ingestion and an asthma attack.

"I was too busy treating patients," Dr Bashara told the inquest into six festival deaths today.

"I saw staff search his clothing to see what he had ingested, I ensured my patients were stable and went to lend assistance.

"He was unresponsive with dilated pupils, he had high potassium levels which could be fatal - he was having an adverse reaction to MDMA.

"His jaw was wired shut, his arms and legs were tensed up, he was stiff.

"He needed to be transferred to hospital from the moment he arrived, I had that conversation shortly after seeing Joseph (with EMS leader Mike Hammond)."

Attempts to oxygenate Joseph through the mouth failed because his jaw was "wired shut" due to spasm muscles, the inquest at Lidcombe heard.

Dr Andrew Beshara said there should have been “a lot more staff” at the festival. Picture: Joel Carrett
Dr Andrew Beshara said there should have been “a lot more staff” at the festival. Picture: Joel Carrett

Paramedics inserted a nasopharyngeal airway device through his nostril.

At around 7.40pm, six minutes later, Diana was carried into the tent by a security guard.

At 8.18pm Doctor Bashara told the inquest he asked a second time for EMS director Mike Hammond for an ambulance.

"I said again, 'we need to get the patient (Joseph) to ED," Doctor Bashara said. "It was loud, I spoke loudly, sufficiently enough to be heard," he said.

Ice packs, adrenaline and oxygen were administered but he went into cardiac arrest with a temperature of 39.5 degrees.

Joseph was transported by ambulance to Nepean Hospital at 8.24pm. Resuscitation efforts failed to save him.

Recalling the stress of being only one of two doctors manning the tent, Dr Bashara said: "I accept he should have been transferred sooner, the patient should have gone to hospital as soon as possible.

"When Doctor Wing left with Diana, I was effectively in charge, I was nervous, it was stressful, but that's the nature of the job.

"I should have (shown more leadership), I was not expecting to lead resuscitation on my own.

"There was a lack of co-ordination between EMS and NSW Ambulance."

Asked whether he would work the Defqon. 1 event again, he replied: "This is the first and last time … there should have been a lot more staff.

"There were two beds, there should have been two doctors per bed.

Diana, 21, was finally transferred ton Hospital at 9.05pm.

She had consumed three vodka cranberry drinks and taken two pills with friends at the Defqon. 1 festival at Sydney International Regatta Centre on 15 September last year when she stumbled on the dance floor and collapsed.

Nguyen and Pham both died after attending Defqon. 1.
Nguyen and Pham both died after attending Defqon. 1.

She also suffered spasms of her jaw muscles which prevented paramedics from opening her mouth and they inserted a nasopharyngeal airway device through her nostril.

Ice packs, adrenaline and oxygen were administered but she went into cardiac arrest with a temperature of 39.5 degrees and died after a cardiac arrest on the way to Nepean Hospital.

The two week inquest is examining the drug deaths of four other festival goers at NSW events hosted between 2017 and January 2019.

Alex Ross-King, 19, died at Westmead Hospital after a four-hour battle to resuscitate her and despite attempts to place her on a heart and lung bypass machine, after she attended FOMO.

Callum Brosnan died after Sydney's Knockout Games of Destiny, and Joshua Tam at the Lost Paradise festival.

Hoang Tran, 18, died after falling over and hitting his head at the Knockout Circuz music festival in Homebush in December 2017.

The inquest was announced earlier this year after a slew of suspected drug-related deaths at festivals prompted debate around on the spot fines and pill testing in the run up to the NSW election.