News

At least four S'poreans in hospital

"My wife just called me and I came down. I'm not quite sure what happened"

- The father of a SIngaporean woman who is suspected of suffering from a drug overdose

Being a big fan of music festivals, she had been looking forward to partying at the Future Music Festival Asia in Kuala Lumpur over the weekend.

But a 24-year-old Singaporean might have partied too hard.

She was one of those from Singapore who were hospitalised for suspected drug overdose. The other, who is believed to be from Indonesia but lives in Singapore, is in critical condition and in a coma.

The festival was cancelled yesterday after it was reported that six concert-goers had died from overdosing on drugs. (See report on facing page.)

One died on the festival grounds on Friday night, two died on the way to hospital and the remaining three died in hospital.

The New Straits Times quoted Kuala Lumpur police chief senior deputy commissioner Mohmad Salleh as saying that three of those who died were women.

"The six who died were locals and they were aged 19 to 28. They were pronounced dead on the way to the University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) and the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Medical Centre (PPUKM) early this morning," he said yesterday.

Three men are also in critical condition in the two hospitals. Two of them are Singaporeans, he added.

Mr Mohamad Salleh said the nine concert-goers had collapsed at the music festival after consuming drugs at about 1.30am yesterday.

He said they had high body temperatures and were believed to have overdosed on methamphetamine, better known as "Ice".

"All tested positive for high levels of drugs and the deaths have been classified as (drug) overdose," Mr Mohamad Salleh said.

He added that during the two days of the concert, police arrested 19 people - seven locals and 12 foreigners from Singapore, Australia and Indonesia - for drug possession.

When The New Paper on Sunday visited the UMMC yesterday, hospital staff said there are at least four Singaporeans in the hospital, including the 24-year-old woman, who are suspected to be suffering from drug overdose.

At about 10.30pm, the Singaporean woman's father was by his daughter's bedside.

Just five minutes after he arrived, he told TNPS that he was not quite sure about his daughter's condition, but knew that it was drug-related.

He had just touched down at Changi Airport after a work trip to Australia when he got a call from his wife to go to Kuala Lumpur.

"My wife just called me and I came down. I'm not quite sure what happened," he said, adding that he knew his daughter was in hospital for something drug-related.

On her hospital bed, the Singaporean woman who works in her mother's real estate company, was hooked up to an oxygen tube.

She was drowsy and unable to speak, though she knew that her father was with her.

A big music fan, she had been looking forward to attending the festival and had told her father about it two weeks ago.

Her father said: "She likes going for this sort of things... She's a big fan of big events, and a big fan of music."

The parents of one of the other Singaporeans, who were by their daughter's bedside, seemed anxious and declined to speak to the media.

They were accompanied by relatives and friends and later went to visit one of the other women whose parents were also with her.

As for the Indonesian, she had eight friends waiting outside the intensive care unit, where she was believed to be in critical condition. Under the Misuse of Drug Act, it is a crime for Singaporeans and permanent residents to take banned drugs, even if they do it in other countries.

When they return to Singapore, they can be subjected to a urine test to detect any illegal narcotics, which can stay in the body for weeks, or sometimes months. Those found guilty of consuming illegal drugs face a maximum penalty of 10 years' jail and a $20,000 fine.

'Shocked and disappointed'

Thousands of concert-goers were left disappointed at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium in Kuala Lumpur yesterday, after the three-day Future Music Festival Asia was abruptly cancelled on its final night following six drug-related deaths.

An estimated 85,000 festival-goers were to have attended the event, which would have culminated last night with performances from Grammy winners Pharrell and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.

Many Singaporeans, including student Nikki Shalina, had made the trip to Kuala Lumpur just for the festival.

"I saved up for more than a month just for this, I barely ate or went out," said Miss Shalina, 19, who had spent over $300 on gig tickets, coach tickets and accommodation.

Having planned for the festival since January, she was informed of the cancellation by police officers, she said.

Another Singaporean, 23-year-old student Benjamin Kok, who had won a pair of tickets to the festival in a contest with MTV Asia, said: "I'm shocked and disappointed. I've been gearing up for today from two weeks ago. I was so excited to see Pharrell."

Mr Kok also said that he saw CPR being administered on someone near the bar sometime after midnight on Friday.

"I saw a crowd gathering but couldn't see much else. Then I heard this sad news," he said.

When The New Paper on Sunday arrived at the concert grounds at about 5.15pm yesterday, hundreds of concert-goers had already arrived but were stopped by police from entering the stadium.

Several notices announcing the cancellation, printed on A4-sized paper, were seen plastered at various locations.

Many concert-goers were seen checking their mobile phones for updates on the situation.

By about 6.15pm, people were seen standing at the entrance shouting "Open the gates" and "We want in", while others threw bottles, ice cubes and other small objects at concert staff on site.

In a press conference last evening, organisers Livescape Asia cited the "interest of public safety" as a reason for the cancellation, and said it will be helping with the ongoing investigation.

Director of Livescape Asia, Mr Iqbal Ameer, said the organisers have been meeting with all related agencies, including the Malaysian police, the fire and rescue department as well as on-site doctors and paramedics.

Details of refunds will be announced within a week. Ticket buyers can go to www.futuremusicfestival.asia for refund details.