Inquest told of ‘abhorrent’ care at Sydney music festival

Defqon.1 music festival in Parramatta, NSW where two people died. (Photo: Flickr/Dushan and Miae)

A chilling account of a young man’s final moments was given today (July 12) at an inquest into a series of deaths at music festivals in recent years.

Joseph Pham, 23, and Diana Nguyen, 21, both died from MDMA toxicity at the music festival Defqon.1 in Penrith on 15 September last year – and today a paramedic at the scene described chaotic scenes in the medical tent, with medical staff under-resourced and disorganised.

Timothy Mascorella, an intensive care paramedic with NSW Ambulance, told the NSW Coroners Court at Lidcombe that he had been instructed not to treat any patients unless “specifically requested” by the privately contracted medical team, Event Medical Services (EMS).

He recounted that when he approached the medical tent, Pham, who was clearly in a critical state, was already being treated by a junior doctor with EMS, Andrew Beshara. His offers to help were repeatedly declined, he said.

Field Day music festival in Sydney’s Domain (Photo: Creative Commons/Flickr)

Questioned by counsel assisting the Deputy State Coroner, Harriet Grahame, Mascorella said he felt leadership within the EMS team had been greatly lacking.

“I found it extremely difficult to care for this patient because there was no team leader. The doctor was giving the patient medications during … [his cardiac] arrest that we were not aware of.”

In his witness statement to the inquest, which he re-affirmed today, Mascorella said: “I found the lack of leadership and crew resource management of the Event Medical Service crew to be completely abhorrent. The critical patients were managed very poorly.

“I just felt at the time that nobody was advocating for the patient appropriately.”

Both Pham and Nguyen were pronounced dead at Nepean Hospital that evening.

Earlier this week, Beshara testified that inadequate numbers of staff were allocated to the event, which led to the unsatisfactory treatment of patients. “There should have been a lot more staff,” he  said.

He said he was one of only two doctors overseeing the welfare of a crowd exceeding 30,000.

Mascorella said he doubted whether he would volunteer to assist at a similar event again.

The inquest is also examining the deaths of four other young people, aged between 18 and 22, who all died after taking MDMA at music festivals between 2017 and 2019. – @jamesayousif