Dad seeks answers over son’s death at ‘spiritual retreat’

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Susanna Freymark

Glen Antonovich from Victoria is staying in Casino.

But it’s no holiday. He is here for an inquest into the death of his son.

The inquest begins tomorrow, Monday, May 8 in the Lismore courts.

Jarrad Antonovich died during a “spiritual retreat” held at Arcoora Arts & Eco Retreat at Collins Creek near Kyogle.

He was 46.

Glen speaks softly. He has been living with his son’s death since October 17, 2021.

Glen will be in the court every day to hear again the details of his son’s death. He has memorised every word of the police report to the coroner.

He has nothing but praise for how Casino police have investigated this case and kept him informed.

Glen wants to see those responsible prosecuted.

There was a similar case last week when a coronial inquest was told Mullumbimby woman Natasha Lechner died minutes after kambo frog poison was administered to her in 2019.

The ABC reported that the 39 year old fainted just moments after the poison was applied to five small burns on her chest and arm.

The ABC reported that on Thursday, the court was told Ms Lechner was not advised of the “risk of sudden death caused by kambo, and yet there is a risk” and she had been trained as a kambo practitioner just two months earlier.

The court was told by an “expert kambo practitioner” that most deaths associated with the practice involved a delay in calling an ambulance.

Glen had never heard of ayahuasca or kambo until Jarrad’s death.

Ayahuasca is a psychedelic drug extracted from plants native to South America.

A chemically similar preparation, sometimes called “pharmahuasca”, can be prepared from two artificial chemicals.

Ayahuasca has been used for centuries by First Nations peoples from contemporary Peru, Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador for religious ritual and therapeutic purposes.

After Jarrad died, a toxicology report revealed N,N-dimethyltryptamine in his blood. N,N-dimethyltryptamine occurs in many plants and animals and in ayahuasca.

Glen showed the three volumes of papers about his son’s death.

The police reports indicate ayahuasca, kambo or both were used during Jarrad’s time at the eight-day “spiritual retreat”.

There were 80 people at the retreat, each having paid $1150 to attend.

The report contains photos of Jarrad’s back. There are at least five small brown burn marks on his skin. This is believed to be where kambo was administered to his skin.

The report outlines how Jarrad’s throat began to swell immediately after he was given the drug. He vomited and was unwell.

Twelve hours later an ambulance was called to the retreat.

It was too late for Jarrad.

“I want to see justice done,” Glen said.

For the next five days, as the evidence is presented to the inquest, a father will watch on, his grief unfathomable, his sorrow palpable.

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