Tragedy as 'amazing' mum, 32, dies after taking half a pill at a music festival

Stephanie died after taking ecstasy at a dance music festival
Stephanie died after taking ecstasy at a dance music festival -Credit:Facebook

An 'amazing' mum tragically collapsed and died after she was seen taking half an ecstasy tablet before going to a music festival.

Stephanie Thorpe, who was originally from Farnworth in Bolton, met with friends at a pub in Blackburn on Saturday, June 25 last year ahead of the Restricted Forest Festival at Witton Park. Her friends saw her take half of the tablet before the group made their way to the event, Lancs Live reports.

The 32-year-old mum, who leaves behind her partner Carl and their baby boy Alfie, was dancing and enjoying the music but collapsed at around around 6.30pm that evening. Tragically, her temperature had risen to 41.6C - with her core temperature two degrees higher.

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Her condition was 'unsurvivable' and Stephanie sadly passed away at the Royal Blackburn Hospital. Music-lover Stephanie, who was a fan of the Wigan Pier, had previously taken pills at dance events but had 'never had a bad experience', an inquest into her death heard yesterday (April 18).

The organisers of Restricted Forest Festival have since cancelled the Blackburn festival this year in the wake of her death, with the event now due to take place in Liverpool instead. Preston Coroners' Court was told how Stephanie, who worked with children with complex needs, had only been seen taking half a 'White Dove' tablet before the festival, though it possible that she may have taken more.

Dr Mark Clayton, an expert in medical provision and event planning at music festivals who has vast experience in how ecstasy is used and affects individuals, explained how a 'perfect storm' had led to the circumstances which caused Stephanie's death. He said: "If someone is drinking alcohol your body is less able to breakdown MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine) because the liver is focused on the alcohol and that can also cause dehydration.

"When you're dehydrated it hyper concentrates all substances in the blood and increases the relative concentration. If the environment is above 20C you are more likely to suffer harm from ecstasy and more likely to suffer serotonin syndrome or a high temperature.

"Once you cross the 20C threshold the risk of harm increases and there were multiple factors at play. Stephanie was dehydrated; she was seen dancing a lot and sweating and it was a very hot day so her ability to lose heat was impaired.

"She was only seen taking half a tablet in the beer garden but once you take the first dose it saturates the system so if you take more those pathways are already working at full capacity. Multi-dosing is related to an increased risk of harm."

Dr Clayton explained that once someone begins to suffer from taking ecstasy, without 'active cooling or organ support', their chances of survival are almost non-existent. "Once you pass 42C the likelihood of survival is very, very low," he added.

Stephanie tragically collapsed at the festival
Stephanie tragically collapsed at the festival -Credit:Archive

The inquest also heard of issues with medical provision and the supply of free drinking water at the dance music festival. Dr Clayton said that although anyone with a licensed premises or event is required by law to provide free drinking water festival-goers often fail to drink it when they are 'in the zone' and enjoying themselves.

"People don't drink water at festivals because it's not easy to get hold of," he added. "Any licensed premises has to provide drinking water free of charge but they can charge for the glass.

"People who are 'in the zone' don't want to go off and drink water." The inquest heard that ecstasy is 'endemic' at festivals with 87 per cent of people admitting to taking illicit substances in the last 12 months.

"It's part of festival culture," Dr Clayton said. "In the UK there are between six to 10 deaths a year and the majority of those are ecstasy.

"It's very common for me to meet people in a festival setting who say they have taken it before and were absolutely fine."

Just last week, the organisers of Restricted Events said that as a mark of respect, events in Blackburn have been temporarily suspended. Senior Coroner Dr James Adeley confirmed he has been in dialogue with both the organisers and Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council which issued the event license.

Dr Adeley will now prepare what is known as a Prevention of Future Deaths report which he intends to send to all licensing authorities in Lancashire. "It will be to make festivals safer; it doesn't make them safe," the coroner added.

Speaking directly to Stephanie's friends, and those who do take ecstasy at music festivals, Dr Adeley said: "If you are attending festivals just be careful please. On the other hand I don't want to be an entire killjoy but take it gently please."

Returning a conclusion of accidental death, as opposed to the alternative of a drug-related death, the coroner said: "This is a situation where a young woman is taking a tablet that she doesn't know the strength of and combined with a range of other contributing factors - the heat of the day - in my view this was an accidental death."

After Stephanie's death friend Holly McLaughlin launched a GoFundMe which raised more than £17,000. She said: "On June 25 our amazing funny irreplaceable gorgeous girl life was taken away from us so suddenly.

"We all as family and friends, even the community, are all so deeply devastated as you can imagine, she has left so many holes in everyone's hearts right now."

This month, Restricted Events and Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council confirmed this year's event in Witton Park had been cancelled. Restricted Forest is now set to take place at Orrell Hill Woods in Liverpool, on Saturday, June 22.

Martin Eden, the council's strategic director of environment and operations, said: "The council took the decision not to proceed with any further events until after the coroner's inquest has taken place. We extend our thoughts and deepest condolences to family and friends at such an extremely difficult and sad time."

Restricted Events CEO Zander Lawrenson apologised to the 'thousands of people' who would have attended this year's events but said events have been temporarily suspended.

He said: "Restricted Events have operated events successfully in Witton Park for seven years and these include Restricted Forest and Restricted Rocks. Our events take months of planning from an organisational and safety perspective to ensure that not only is the event a success, but everyone can be guaranteed safety.

"As was reported, sadly someone passed away following last year's Restricted Forest event. As a mark of respect for this person, we have temporarily suspended events here in Blackburn until the outcome of the inquest.

"Once this is finalised we intend to consult with the council with a view to resuming our events in the future. We apologise to the thousands of people who would have attended this year's events and look forward to seeing you all soon."

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