Pitch Music & Arts forced to cancel amid soaring temperatures and death of attendee

today12/03/2024 2

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Australia’s Pitch Music & Arts Festival was cancelled over the weekend following soaring temperatures, bushfire warnings, and the death of a 23-year-old man.

The Melbourne man, now identified as Antony Maugeri, was found unresponsive just after 1:AM on Sunday morning and was airlifted to Alfred Hospital in Melbourne. He passed away later that day.

Maugeri was suspected to have suffered a drug overdose, along with two other men in their 30s and 40s. Both men were taken to East Grampians Health Service and remain in stable condition, according to The Guardian.

Pitch posted a statement on Instagram following the death of Maugeri on Sunday, writing: “We are deeply saddened to learn this evening that one of our People of Pitch has passed away.”

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

The festival was called off on its final day yesterday (Sunday, March 10), amidst weather warnings and threats of bushfire in the nearby area. The temperatures peaked at around 40 degrees celsius.

The Country Fire Authority (CFA) declared “extreme weather” in the state of Victoria on Saturday, urging attendees of both Pitch and Melbourne’s Moomba Parade – which was also called off on Sunday – to stay safe and refrain from travelling.

“The safest option for those who are already on site is to leave the site tonight or early in the morning,” the CFA explained. “If you are arriving on Saturday, we recommend delaying your arrival until further notice.”

After consulting the CFA and local authorities, Pitch announced that it would continue its music programming from 6:PM on Saturday. They explained that there were “no active fires in the region and we wish to reassure you that those who are on site have access to ample shade, cooling misting fans, food and water.”

A second total fire ban in the area prompted Pitch to pull the plug on its final day. 7News shared a video of festival attendees exiting the event on Sunday, calling it a “mass exodus” amid severe weather conditions.

Attendees are now arguing that such dangerous conditions should have been spotted earlier. One festivalgoer, named Jonathan Seagar, told 3AW that organisers “failed to communicate” with those in attendance.

“The water and the cooling systems and ice were pretty scarce in the camping site… the problem really [lay] with the campsite,” he said, adding that attendees were made to walk 20 minutes after cancellation.

Simon Eid, a spokesman for the family of Antony Maugeri, told The Age that the 23-year-old’s cause of death has yet to be confirmed, stating: “How many lives do you put at risk!” in regards to Pitch going ahead over the weekend.

Maugeri’s death has also led to calls for on-site drug testing. “While this Labor government continues to stall, young Victorian lives are being put at risk,” said party spokesperson Aiv Puglielli in a statement (via The Guardian).

“Even with pure MDMA we’ve seen how extreme heat can deal a deadly blow,” he said. “So with untested drugs circulating, this was truly a disaster waiting to happen.”

Gemma Ross is Mixmag’s Assistant Editor, follow her on Twitter

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Written by: Tim Hopkins

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