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Festival death prompts concerns

What police are calling a suspicious death at the Pemberton Music Festival, north of Vancouver, has prompted concerns about security.

Twenty-one-year-old Nick Phongsavath of Regina was found dead in a tent on festival grounds, and homicide detectives are investigating.

Risa Payant, a festival consultant for the Saskatchewan Arts Board, was at Pemberton as a patron.

She said no one she knows of was patted down before entering and security asked people if they had anything illegal but let concertgoers in without checking.

Payant, who has organized and attended festivals around the world, said Pemberton was not the safest atmosphere, and even security officials were not aware of the death.

"They'd just be like, 'I don't know, was there an incident last night?'" she said.

Festival organizers did not immediately return requests for comment, but released a statement saying police are confident the death was isolated and the festival site is safe and well organized.

"The safety of our attendees is always our primary concern," the statement said. "We have significant security resources on site including security personnel, RCMP, customer service representatives and a full medical team."

Organizers said counselling services were being provided for all staff and guests, and people who had to be relocated because of the death were given food, water and shelter.

RCMP spokesman Rob Knapton said the death has not created more safety risks and there have been no significant issues aside from the death.

"We've got no concerns about the safety of the people here," said Knapton "If there were concerns we'd be dealing with things definitely in a different manner."

So far up to 20 people have been arrested, mainly for being drunk in public and causing a disturbance.

The festival is going on as scheduled. 

The Canadian Press

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