Man dies from ‘overdose’ on last day of Shambhala music festival

Mitchell Joseph Fleischacker from Sidney, B.C. died from a possible drug-overdose at Shambhala Music Festival this weekend.

Mitchell Joseph Fleischacker from Sidney, B.C. died from a possible drug-overdose at Shambhala Music Festival this weekend.

The 23-year-old man was found collapsed at the Salmo-based music festival without any identification early on Sunday morning.  A joint investigation from the B.C. Coroner’s Service and the Trail RCMP Detachment is ongoing, but specific details about the death have yet to be released.

“There’s not a lot to go on here,” said Sgt. Dan Siebel. “I did hear that he was there alone; he wasn’t part of a group. He may have met up with some individuals while he was there and he did not have any identification with him while he was at the hospital.”

Some significant follow up is still being done by RCMP investigators and Shambhala security, he added, to positively identify him.

But a recent report from the CBC indicated event organizers saw the man collapse in the food court around 5 a.m. First responders found him unconscious and non-responsive but breathing, said festival executive producer Corrine Zawaduk in a written statement on Monday.

“He was quickly transported to our on-site medical centre where he received a high level of emergency medical treatment from a doctor, a registered nurse, paramedics and several first aid attendants,” said Zawaduk.

The medical staff then took the man by ambulance to Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital in Trail, but he had a heart attack en route and died, said Zawaduk.

Seibel suggested the man died from a possible overdose.

“We don’t know the drugs that were used,” he said. “We’re working with the coroner to have an autopsy completed.”

According to a recent CBC report, the death is the first ever fatality to occur during the Shambhala Electronic Music Festival’s 15-year history, which draws 10,000 people from all over the world annually during the first week of August.

Police do not have a timeline for this investigation, but expect to learn more about the death after an autopsy is performed. In addition, the Trail RCMP detachment are looking for witnesses who can shed some light on what happened before the man was brought to the hospital.

According to IHA official Karl Hardt, the Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital (KBRH) in Trail does see an increase in emergency department visits during and following the music festival—some of these presentations would relate to mental health/substance use.

But the KBRH does have additional staff in place to address this increase as necessary, Hardt said.

“It’s also challenging to track specific cases to a large scale event like Shambhala,” he said.

Police have noted that several traffic-related accidents have occurred after the festival over the past several years.

Often ravers leave the Salmo River Ranch festival feeling fatigued and hung-over.  A strong police presence will remain in the area for the next two-days.

Police presence prominent

The festival is well known to police for its long-standing reputation for drug use.

As a result, it is the largest single event for police resources in the West Kootenay, said RCMP Staff Sgt. Dan Siebel.

More than 50 police members complete are involved with the eight-day festival.

While the actual Shambhala entertainment side has been concluded, there are still a considerable number of people on site and they’ll be leaving both today and tomorrow.

“So we still have a strong police presence on highways—public safety is a primary concern,” he said.

Over the past several years there were a number of accidents that occurred with individuals leaving Shambhala fatigued and hung over from drug or alcohol use, he said.

RCMP supplemented their Salmo detachment resources of four officers, utilizing a full contingent of traffic and integrated road safety members patrolling and doing checks in the area.

Seibel said traffic statistics related to the event would be released later this week.

“Knock on wood that we don’t have any other major incidents,” he said.