Grieving parents have spoken of the heartbreaking deaths of two much-loved young people who went out to enjoy a festival ‘full of life’ but who never returned home.
Dad-of-one Tommy Cowan, 20, collapsed at the Mutiny Festival site on King George V Playing Fields, in Cosham, Portsmouth at 7.30pm on Saturday.
Just minutes before Georgia Jones, 18, fell unwell at 7.10pm. Her mother said Georgia had taken ‘two pills’.
Both were taken to Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham, but neither survived. The final day of the festival, which attracts thousands of people from Sussex and was held at Fontwell Park in West Sussex in 2015, was cancelled. Hours earlier, the festival organiser had warned of a ‘bad batch’ of a substance.
Another person admitted to QA Hospital from the festival is in a critical condition. Medics said 15 people in total were admitted but not all of these were drug-related.
Speaking to The Portsmouth News from his home in Leigh Park, Tommy’s dad Damian Cowan, 43, paid tribute to his ‘brilliant’ son.
“He meant everything to me, he was my boy,” the delivery driver said.
“He was funny, he loved life and he loved his little boy. He was everything. He was a good lad – unfortunately he made a bad choice.”
The former South Downs College student leaves behind a girlfriend and a one-year-old son, Milo.
Mr Cowan added: “He was a brilliant dad, he went to work all week, he would buy his son all the best stuff.
“He was just brilliant, he really was, he was so loving.”
In a direct tribute about his son, he added: “My baby boy, I can’t believe you are gone. Fly high in the heavens and sleep well until we meet again, I will love you and miss you always – dad.”
Mr Cowan said he was angry with reports that bags were not searched. The organisers said they had 175 security and crowd management staff working on site.
He said: “I’m frustrated that the organisers of the festival – no-one has contacted me to say “I’m sorry”. You’d except them to do that. I’m just going to miss him, I really am.”
Jack Ford, 19, had studied a uniformed services course at college with Tommy, of West Leigh.
“He was always happy,” he said. “He’d be the first one of the group to always be there for us.”
Georgia’s mother took to Facebook on Sunday morning to ‘deter’ others from taking drugs.
Posting online, Janine Milburn said: “My little girl was 18 and full of life and I just hope this stops at least some of you from ending up the same.”
She added: “I can now say Georgia died yesterday due to complications after taking two pills at Mutiny.
“If nothing else, I hope what has happened to her will deter you from taking anything ever.”
In the post she described how Georgia had died, adding she ‘made the decision to turn everything off’.
A friend leaving flowers on Sunday said: “She was a bubbly, fun girl. A lovely very good friend when we were in junior school.
“Our thoughts are with her family.”
In a statement, festival organiser Luke Betts said the deaths were ‘deeply upsetting’, adding ‘we again wish to send all our thoughts to the families’.
Hampshire police said the deaths were being treated as separate incidents, and police were ‘making enquiries into the circumstances surrounding those deaths effectively on behalf of the coroner’.
No arrests have been made and the force would not confirm it had launched a criminal investigation into the drugs.
Organisers hoped around 30,000 were due to attend the festival. But it was cut short with Sunday’s line-up cancelled as a ‘safety precaution’ after the deaths.
Last year police wanted to ban all under-18s from the festival following concerns over sexual assaults on children and drug use. Instead, councillors insisted all youngsters must have photographic ID.
Revellers who witnessed the tragedy unfold on Saturday night, which saw Dizzee Rascal, Pete Tong and Idris Elba perform, told of their horror.
Peter Stone, 25, said he saw paramedics trying to save the 18-year-old.
“It was horrible to see,” he said. “It’s such a shame that people’s lives have gone this way.”
Another festival-goer, Lauren Matthews, from Portsmouth, said she saw an unidentified man fitting.
“It looked like he had a fit and didn’t wake back up,” she said.
“We didn’t want to stare to much so we walked off and when we came back he was still lying there surrounded by the ambulance crew.”
Organisers said in a statement issued on Sunday that there was a ‘whole host of safeguarding, welfare and medical teams’ in addition to the police.
But there will be multiple questions to answer as both Hampshire police and Portsmouth City Council, which grants licences for such events, both carry out investigations into the deaths and surrounding circumstances.