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Oz fest cancels final night due to extreme weather

The final night of Australia’s Pitch Music and Arts Festival was cancelled following an “extreme fire danger warning”, hours after the suspected drug-related death of a 23-year-old attendee.

The Untitled Group-promoted camping event in Moyston, Victoria, was called off in advance of Sunday’s (10 March) scheduled finale.

“Through consultation with authorities, we have been directed to cancel the remainder of Pitch Music & Arts 2024 in light of an updated extreme fire danger warning issued this afternoon for tomorrow,” says a statement posted on the dance music festival’s social media channels.

“We have consistently followed the guidance of relevant authorities throughout the entire process. Nobody is in immediate danger. We encourage everyone on site not to rush, calmly pack-up and depart either this evening or early tomorrow.”

Additional buses were laid on to assist ticket-holders departing the festival site.

“We continue to have a police, fire and medical presence throughout the festival site to support the safety and security of patrons,” adds the statement. “Ticket-holders will receive an update as more information becomes available.”

Organisers have defended themselves against criticism for proceeding with the sold-out 18,000-cap event despite temperatures soaring as high as 39°C, noting patrons had access to “ample shade, cooling misting fans, food and water”.

“We’ve been in consistent communication with all relevant authorities regarding the weather conditions leading into the event”

“We’ve been in consistent communication with all relevant authorities regarding the weather conditions leading into the event and were advised that we could proceed as planned as late as Thursday afternoon,” they told Resident Advisor. “Of the further advice we received on Friday, we rescheduled some entertainment and incoming buses for Saturday. We’ve been in a unique situation where the fire danger rating was fluctuating but we were diligently following the advice from all emergency authorities each step of the way.

“The directive on Sunday was of a different nature and that’s why we took immediate action to cancel the festival at that time.”

The Age reports that five festivalgoers were hospitalised because of suspected substance use at the event. Antony Maugeri, 23, of Melbourne, was airlifted to hospital after becoming unresponsive in the early hours of Sunday morning, but later passed away. Promoters say they are “deeply saddened” by the tragedy.

“Our thoughts are with their family, friends and anyone in our wider community affected by this,” says a statement. “We are devastated that this has occurred at an event where community has been a driving force over the last seven years.”

While the cause of Maugeri’s death is yet to be confirmed, the chain of events has reignited the debate over drug testing at Australian festivals. It follows analysis of drug-related deaths at Australian festivals over almost a decade, which showed that most could potentially have been prevented through harm reduction strategies such as pill testing.

The study, published in January in the International Journal of Drug Policy, and led by Associate Professor Jennifer Schumann, from Monash University’s Department of Forensic Medicine, looked at drug-related deaths at music festivals throughout Australia between 1 July 2000 and 31 December 2019.


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