RCMP says death at Pemberton Music Festival did not involve foul play

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The RCMP has ruled out the possibility of foul play in the death of a 21-year-old Regina student that occurred at the Pemberton Music Festival on July 18.

“As a result of evidence found at the scene, witness statements and the autopsy completed on Nick Phongsavath, it has been determined that foul play is not a contributing factor in his death,” said Staff Sgt. Jennifer Pound quoted in a July 22 media release.

That document does not include information on a specific cause of death.

It still describes the incident as “suspicious”, but notes that the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) is no longer involved in the case and has turned the matter over to the regular RCMP division responsible for the Sea-to-Sky corridor.

Some B.C. media outlets originally published news of Phongsavath’s death as a murder. On July 18, the Straight reported that while IHIT was on-site at the Pemberton Music Festival investigating the incident, a cause of death had not been determined at that time.

Providing further details, the July 22 RCMP release states that Phongsavath’s body was found inside his tent shortly after 6 p.m on Friday.

Whistler/Pemberton RCMP officers and B.C. Ambulance Service paramedics responded and attempted to revive Phongsavath but were unsuccessful. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

As the death was ruled suspicious, IHIT then began work alongside the RCMP’s Integrated Forensics Identification Service (IFIS) throughout the night and into the next day. The autopsy was completed on July 21, concluding that the death did not involve foul play.

A July 19 statement distributed by the festival’s organizer, Huka Entertainment, notes that 55 campers were displaced by the incident and the RCMP’s subsequent investigation.

The festival went on with a heightened police presence. Operations otherwise continued as planned until the event’s late Sunday (July 20) finish.

A separate Huka Entertainment release estimates that 20,000 people attended the festival on a daily basis to make for a total of 75,000 attendees over the course of the weekend.

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