The West

Teen sought treatment before ecstasy death
Kalamunda teenager Gemma Thoms. Picture: Supplied

Kalamunda teenager Gemma Thoms, who died of an ecstasy overdose after taking pills at the Big Day Out festival in 2009, was released back into the crowd after visiting the first aid post before she eventually collapsed, a coronial inquest has heard.

Coroner Dominic Mulligan is investigating the 17-year-old hairdressing apprentice's death on February 2, 2009 - the day after she took three ecstasy tablets.

Counsel assisting the Coroner Kate Ellson said Gemma and her friend Cassandra Southern took one tablet each before Gemma's mother dropped them off to the Claremont Showgrounds on the hot summer's day. Gemma's mother told the girls to drink a lot of water and be sensible, the inquest was told.

Ms Ellson said Gemma had three more ecstasy tablets hidden in her bra but as she neared the entry she became concerned that police dogs might be at the grounds, so she swallowed two more pills and Miss Southern took another one. Miss Southern did not recall seeing any police or sniffer dogs around at this time.

Ms Ellson said despite both girls being underage, neither of them were asked for identification and were given yellow wrist bands for access to the alcohol areas.

She said the girls had discussed the night before whether they would be able to obtain ecstasy and Gemma organised getting the drugs. Mr Mulligan suppressed the identity and evidence of the person who allegedly supplied the drugs to Gemma because he is facing a number of charges.

Ms Ellson said Gemma had used drugs before but not regularly.

She said Gemma was escorted to the first aid post when she appeared unwell. Ms Ellson said Gemma gave the first aid officer wrong information, including the incorrect date of birth, and told him she had taken one "dexi". The volunteer officer said Gemma was flushed and looked hot, like many others that day, but seemed alert and was talking well and let her go.

After Gemma and Miss Southern went on a ride, Gemma was stumbling, sweaty and her lips looked blue. She collapsed and started convulsing and was rushed back to the first aid room and an ambulance was called.

She died the next day at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, with an autopsy confirming the cause of death was an ecstasy overdose.

Ms Ellson said the issues to be explored at the five-day inquest included whether it was appropriate for Gemma to be released back into the crowd after her first visit to the first aid post, whether it would have made any difference to her treatment had her ID been correctly ascertained at her entry to the event and whether St John Ambulance volunteer officers were trained in recognising the symptoms of a drug overdose.

Mr Mulligan will also examine if qualified ambulance paramedics should be required to attend large scale concerts, events and organised gatherings as a matter of course and whether and to what extent Health Department guidelines were applied by venue management and people attending the event.

Mr Mulligan said ambulance guidelines meant those identified as underage cannot be released back into the crowd after they have received treatment.

"Minors often need to be protected from minors," he said.

Miss Southern told the inquest she and Gemma took ecstasy occasionally and it seemed to make her friend a "bit more hyperactive than normal".

She said they were excited about going to Big Day Out because it was the first event of its kind they had attended.

"(Before the event) we just said we were going to get pills for the day ... we were going to get five, we were meant to have two and a half each, that's all really we could afford," she said.

Miss Southern said they took ecstasy because it was a "fun thing to do". She said to her knowledge Gemma had never taken more than two pills at a time before and had never gotten sick after taking ecstasy.

She said Gemma had changed the date of birth on her driver's licence to enable her to buy alcohol and they were given 18 and over wristbands.

The inquest will hear evidence from Gemma's friends, event and security organisers, police and ambulance officers.

This year's Big Day Out will be in Perth this coming weekend.

The West Australian

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