FMFA organisers shocked by reveal that drug deaths were caused by heatstroke
Last year, the deaths of six people at Future Music Festival Asia (FMFA) in Kuala Lumpur was reported to be due to drug overdose.
Today, The Star reported that a pathologist involved in the case sent Malaysian authorities reports stating that the cause of the deaths were heatstroke. He also said that drugs played a negligible role.
According to Dr K Nadesan, head of the forensic pathology department of University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC), the hospital handled the post-mortem for three of the dead.
He said these post-mortem results were released to the police two months after the deaths, which took place in March last year.
Out of the 16 people who were thought to have suffered from a drug overdose and subsequently taken to hospital, two did not show any trace of illegal substances, he said.
This revelation seems to contradict police statements that have always maintained that the deaths were caused by drugs.
When contacted by The New Paper, Mr Iqbal Ameer, the group chief executive officer of The Livescape Group, who organised FMFA, expressed his shock and dismay at the news.
" It is shocking as it changes everything," he said.
"For over a year, we've been led to believe that the deaths were due to drug overdoses, which obviously impacted the FMFA brand globally and on a larger scale, the live events industry in Malaysia. It was one of the main reasons why our permits and appeals were denied when we wanted to host FMFA in Singapore this year."
Mr Iqbal also expressed concern for the families for the victims.
"Over a year on, and they are once again forced to seek closure. Livescape will... ensure that the truth is revealed transparently for the sake of those families."
These deaths were the cause of cancellation of several concerts in Malaysia.
Future Music Festival Asia 2015, scheduled to take place in Singapore, had its permit rejected by the Ministry of Home Affairs in March this year due to drug concerns.
The UMMC forensic pathology department head Prof Dr Nadesan said that following the issue of the results, said he had sent several detailed reports correcting the police statements.
He said: "Generally, the police did not show much interest in the reports. Unfortunately, they made statements without proper scientific reasons, which is not the right way.
"They should have spoken to us and encouraged an inquest into the case because it is a matter of public interest to prevent similar incidents."
He said that the victims did test positive for ecstasy or MDMA, but it was lower than the average recreational level of 0.1 to 0.25 microgram per mililitre.
Dr Nadesan added that the police had given him the impression that the patients had taken large doses of drugs when they were first admitted to the hospital.
He said: "Even the clinicians at the trauma centre were under the impression that these people were heavily intoxicated with drugs and were treating them for overdose instead of a heatstroke.
"The autopsy and clinical findings were not on par with drug overdose. The police had no grounds to say it was. It was a wrong assumption."
Livescape: 'We were turned away by hospital'
After the incident, Livescape had gone to the hospital to get the toxicology reports and post-mortem results.
"But we were turned away and was told to obtain the reports from the police directly," said Mr Iqbal.
He added: "All information regarding the incident we got was only through verbal communication from the police. In fact, we have been pressing for both the toxicology and police investigation reports after FMFA last year. But our numerous requests was turned down citing an 'ongoing police investigation'.
"We were pretty much left in the dark and even today, we have yet to know the contents of the investigation and toxicology reports."
Festival conditions were main causes of tragedy
Dr Nadesan conceded that the drugs might have played a role in the deaths but maintains they were not the main cause.
He said the conditions of the second day of the festival, which included haze, high humidity, and a 35°C temperature - were the main causes of the tragedy.
Those who took MDMA would have probably overexerted themselves physically, causing their bodies to lose control in regulating temperatures.
The victims stopped sweating while their bodies experienced disseminated intravascular coagulopathy (DIVC) which causes internal haemorrhaging, blood clotting and lower oxygen delivery to organs.
“This led to multiple organ failures, a shutdown of the body,” he said.