Family of teenager who died at T in the Park call for higher minimum age limit at music festivals
Former St Anthony’s Catholic Girls’ Academy student Megan Bell had not planned to go to T in the Park this year, but bought a ticket from a friend who could no longer go.
It was the second time the 17-year-old, from Seaham, went to the event in Scotland, after having the “time of her life” last year, when her parents caved in to her request to join her mates.
But concerns have been expressed about the level of drinking, drugs and violence at this summer’s site, with Megan’s family battling for answers from the authorities about what happened to her and the care she was offered.
It has been reported that a pathologist recorded the cause of her death, and that of two others linked to the festival, as “drug related” but the family has not been informed of any verdicts.
It is thought she was left for around 30 minutes without medical attention after she became ill, with her loved ones still not told when she died or what treatment she received.
More than a month on, they are still waiting for her belongings to be returned and the outcome of tests.
Her dad Chris has slammed the festival’s organisation as “shambolic” and has called for an investigation into how it is run,
The 44-year-old, who is also dad to Josh, 12, Maddy, 10, and Jenny, eight, has set up a petition calling for festivals to raise the age limit to 21, unless accompanied by an adult, and wants answers about happened to his eldest girl.
More than 500 people have already added their name to the cause, which highlights how children as young as 14 have gone to festivals without supervision.
The County Durham coroner has indicated to the family in a letter he is carrying out inquiries to find out what happened to Megan.
Chris, 44, who works as a car transporter driver, and is partner to Lisa Dickinson, 41, said: “We’ve basically been left in the dark.
“We know Megan wasn’t a drug user.
“We just don’t know what went on. There could be 10 things that happened.
“We’ve been told that she died in hospital and that she died in a tent. We just haven’t got any answers.
“We’ve heard all sorts of stories from friends and people who were there.”
Despite having a great experience at the festival last year, Megan and her friends found the atmosphere on the first night threatening.
Chris added: “I think the age limit should be raised to 21 at festivals.
“There are kids, 14, 15, 16, who are going and are subjected to and see violence, drugs, alcohol, sexual assaults, that’s what happened this year.
“I want to know what medical attention was available, were there just first aiders on site, what security there was. Did they have enough staff?
“A friend of Megan’s called her mam to come and pick her up because she was unhappy, before anything happened to Megan and that was just a few hours after they arrived.
“If there’s 80,000 people there, surely there should be everything in place?
“We’ve not heard anything from the organisers.
“They came out and said they were devastated, but then they’d be back again next year.
“I’m not saying there shouldn’t be festivals, but the age level needs to be raised.”
A 17-year-old boy from the west of Scotland also died at the festival on July 8, the same day as Megan, while the body of a 29-year-old dad was found in a field two days after it ended, with both also said to be linked to drugs.
Police also launched an investigation into an alleged rape, when an 18-year-old woman reported she had been attacked.
Police Scotland said 429 crimes were reported at the festival, compared with 414 last year, while officers made 54 arrests, compared with 57 in 2015.
No one was available from the T in the Park organisers for comment.
The Change petition can be signed via: http://chn.ge/2aJNQZO
Backing for change in festival age limit
People are already adding their support to the age limit calls at festivals.
Jayne Crawford, from Sunderland, added to the petition page: “I have a son who has been asking me if he can go, and I know how easily led young kids can be.
“So if there’s an age limit of 21 or older then he wouldn’t be able to go anyway and it’s less stress for parents.
“I think the age limit should definitely be 21 unless with an adult.”
Bronia Bowe, from Sunderland, said: “It’s too late sadly for Megan but this would save hundreds of lives in the future.”
Lisa Reeves, who lives in the city, said: “Megan was my daughter’s much loved friend, they all went to the festival together and they were traumatised coming home without her, nothing will be the same again, they are devastated.
“I’m signing this petition so hopefully no other parent has to go through what Chris and Lisa are going through right now.
“Twenty-one should be the legal age, let’s make this happen.”
Lisa Cummings, from Seaham, said: “The age limit of such events where drink and drugs are freely available should be that of a nightclub.
“Children should never be allowed at such places unless everyone is searched on entering.
“Such a heartbreaking situation and should never have happened, such a waste of a beautiful young girl and so much heartache for lovely parents.”
Family ‘in awe’ over support following tragedy.
Described as a “mother hen” by her family, Megan’s sudden death left her home town of Seaham stunned.
Megan’s packed out funeral was held at St Mary Magdalen’s RC Church on the day she was due to start her apprenticeship as a hairdresser.
She had dreams of owning her own business and was a talented performer, having appeared at Sunderland Empire and Theatre Royal, having been a member of the Stagecoach performing arts school.
Hundreds turning out to a candle-lit vigil and balloon release on the seafront and made a charity night in her name a sell out.
A football match at the weekend raised £1,000, which brings the total of money raised in her name to £7,500.
Chris and Megan’s brother Josh, 12, took part in the game, which saw her friends and family, plus former Sunderland player Michael Proctor, take on and win against a side made up of boxers and former boxers.
Each player wore a shirt with her name on it, with the match played before a crowd of hundreds.
A Just Giving page, Flowers for Megan, has now closed, but further events are in the pipeline thanks to Laura Ward, a family friend, who has led the efforts.
Now attentions are being turned to a community day, which will be held on a Saturday next month at Dawdon Cricket Club.
Supporters are being invited to donate bottles for a bonus ball hamper prize, with the event to also feature facepainting, live music and a bouncy castle.
Laura, who is also helping to plan the day, said: “It’s going to be a big family fun day for everyone to join in, it should be really good.
“If anyone would like to donate a bottle or any businesses would like to have a stall, we’d love them to get in touch.”
Chris and his family have also sent out their thanks to those who have offered support in the wake of the tragedy.
He said: “The whole family is in awe of how much love has been shown for Megan.
“All those people who attended the balloon release and the funeral and the night at Dawdon Welfare Club and has raised funds and donated.”
In addition to Laura, he has also thanked neighbours Gillian Graham and Claire Mitchell, friend Victoria Tipling, John Thirtle, who ran the entertainment at the charity night, and the band on the night, Crisis North East, who played without charge.
Anyone who can help can contact Laura on 07415 868 840.
A slideshow of images from Sunday’s match can be seen via https://flipagram.com/f/tRUqMyQmfs.