BC Coroner to investigate Shambhala death

Investigation will include the circumstances surrounding the death and what can be done to prevent similar fatalities in the future

Mitchell Joseph Fleischacker

It may take months for the BC Coroner to confirm how a Shambhala festival-goer died last Sunday.

An RCMP press released suggested Mitchell Joseph Fleischacker, 23, of Sidney, BC, suffered from a drug overdose.

RCMP are still investigating the death. Once officers can confirm the death was not suspicious, the B.C. Coroner’s Service will take over the file.

Barb McLintock, a spokesperson from the coroner’s office, said their investigation will include an autopsy and toxicology report to confirm the cause of death, a review of the circumstances that caused the death and what can be done to prevent similar fatalities in the future.

“We can take a fairly wide view and look into what was going on at the festival, if [the death] was related to where he was or what was going on there,” McLintock explained.

She predicted the investigation would take at least three months. The findings and any recommendations will be released publicly.

According to Fleischacker’s Facebook page, he grew up in Stettler, Alberta, and worked at a sheet metal company in Victoria.

Kristy King, a friend of the deceased, wrote a tribute to the Fleischacker on the social media site. She remembered the man for his generosity towards her and her children and his cooking ability, and said he’d attended Shambhala for several years.

“You collected your tickets from Shambhala the last four years like badges of honour, you loved it,” she wrote. “We are going to miss you horribly.”

Prior to this incident, Shambhala has had no deaths in its 15 year history. The festival attracts 10,000 people each year and has a reputation for drug use. Festival organizers incorporate harm reduction strategies into the planning of the event.

In addition to a fully staffed field hospital on site, there are social workers and mental health professionals available to offer support to festival goers. They hire professional security people to search for drugs and alcohol at the festival gates.

This is the second death at BC electronic music festivals this summer. On June 24 a 25-year-old man attending the Entheos Summer Solstice Festival in the Fraser Valley community of Boston Bar was allegedly stabbed to death in the festival campground. That four-day festival was attended by 1,100 people. No arrest were made in the homicide.

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