When six people died at the Future Music Festival Asia (FMFA) in Kuala Lumpur last year, the Malaysian police had said that the deaths were a result of drug overdose.
But Dr K. Nadesan, a pathologist involved in the case, has now come out to say that the deaths were more likely due to heatstroke and that drugs played a negligible role, reported Malaysian daily The Star.
The head of the forensic pathology department at the University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) said: "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."
Considered one of the biggest dance music festivals in South-east Asia, the FMFA was scheduled to be held in Singapore last March.
But it was cancelled after the police here rejected organiser The Livescape Group's application for a public entertainment licence to stage the festival due to concerns over potential drug use at the event. (See report below.)
Dr Nadesan said that UMMC conducted autopsies on three of the dead fans and treated nine other festival-goers.
The autopsies on the "virtually dried-up" bodies, including one which had a temperature of 39 deg C, led him to conclude that the cause of death was heatstroke, he said.
Dr Nadesan said that while the ones who died tested positive for Ecstasy or MDMA, it was lower than the average recreational level of 0.1 to 0.25 microgramme per millilitre.
He conceded that the drugs might have played a role in the deaths but maintained that they were not the main cause.
HAZE & HUMIDITY
He said the conditions on the second day of the festival, which included haze, high humidity and a 35 deg C temperature, were the main causes of the tragedy.
Those who took MDMA would have probably over-exerted themselves physically, causing their bodies to be unable to regulate temperature.
The victims stopped sweating while their bodies experienced disseminated intravascular coagulopathy, 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.
As for the nine others who were treated, two had no traces of drugs in their system while the rest tested positive for MDMA, ketamine and morphine.
Dr Nadesan said the results of the post-mortem were released to the police two months after the deaths.
He said that after the results were released, he had sent several detailed reports correcting the police statements that blamed drug overdose for the fans' deaths.
He said: "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 also said that the deaths could have been prevented if the organisers of FMFA had given festival-goers adequate access to water and information on how they could stay healthy in the harsh weather.
The Star reported that Kuala Lumpur's Criminal Investigation Department chief, Senior Assistant Commissioner Zainuddin Ahmad, confirmed that the sudden death reports for the six had listed heatstroke as the cause.
This article was first published on June 2, 2015.
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