The RCMP's Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) has confirmed that 21-year-old Nick Phongsavath from Regina has been killed in what police are calling "a suspicious death" that occurred Friday, July 18 on the grounds of the Pemberton Music Festival.
The IHIT told media at a press conference in Surrey that an autopsy will be required to determine the cause of death. The man was found in his tent after 6 p.m. in the festival campgrounds. Attempts to revive the victim by RCMP and BC Ambulance were unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead at the scene. Police could not confirm foul play. The IHIT was called in to lead the investigation "as it appeared that there may be indication of foul play," according to police.
No arrests have been made and police have no suspects at this stage. The IHIT said further updates may be provided next week following the autopsy. Camper Reut Amit tweeted that police told her four men were involved in the incident, including the deceased. Anyone with information is asked to call IHIT at 877-551-4448
"We are deeply saddened by the tragic incident that occurred on July 18 in the Pemberton Music Festival campgrounds," read a statement from event producers HUKA Entertainment released early Saturday evening. "Our prayers and deepest condolences go out to Mr. Phongsavath's friends and family.
"The RCMP are confident that this was an isolated incident and that the festival site is safe and well organized," the statement continued. "The safety of our attendees is always our primary concern. We have significant security resources on-site including security personnel, RCMP, customer service representatives and a full medical team."
On-site counselling is also being provided for all guests and staff, HUKA said.
Police at the festival sealed off about 20 tents in a campground where the incident is believed to have taken place. A total of 55 campers were displaced by the investigation and were not allowed onto the scene to get their belongings late last night. Organizers provided food, water, shelter and clothing to those affected. The area is expected to be reopened to the public Saturday night.
Festival operations were largely unaffected by the incident, with Friday's headliner Nine Inch Nails continuing with their set as planned while police searched the scene.
Many campers were still unaware of the incident on Saturday morning, or had only heard rumours circulating through the campgrounds.
"We heard about it late last night but didn’t get a lot of details about it. It was mostly word of mouth," said camper Jordan Johanssen, who travelled from Montana for the festival. "It definitely put a damper on things," he added, although he said he would "probably come back next year" and is enjoying the festival so far.
Frequent festival-goer Addison Grafton drove from Colorado for the weekend and only heard about the suspicious death Saturday morning. "It’s just really sad. Honestly, there are deaths at almost every festival but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t come back," she said, adding that otherwise, the event has run smoothly, applauding the friendliness of staff and volunteers.
Check back with Pique as more information becomes available.