DANIEL Buccianti would have turned 37 on Monday. But his life was tragically cut short almost three years ago when he died from a drug overdose at the Rainbow Serpent Festival.
An acclaimed chef with a zest for life which oozed off on others, Daniel’s passing was the first drug-related death in the festival’s almost 18-year history.
With more than 10,000 people attending the alternative four-day event each year, the only other death was in 2007 when a woman died from an asthma attack.
A young man who was not a hardcore drug user by any stretch, Daniel phoned his mother from the festival in the early hours of January 29, 2012, and told her something wasn’t right.
“He said, ‘I’ve taken acid and everything is very odd here. I’ve never felt like this before’,” Daniel’s heartbroken mother Adriana told The Courier on Monday as she lunched at Rivers of Yarrambat – the restaurant where Daniel worked and where his funeral was held.
“I told him I would drive there and pick him up and he said, ‘OK’. But he called me back a short time later and said he would be fine and I believed him.”
Sadly, that would be the last time she spoke to her only son.
Around 8.30am that Sunday, police arrived at Ms Buccianti’s Epping door and delivered the news every parent dreads.
“And they just told me, ‘Daniel has died’,” Ms Buccianti recalled.
“I could not believe it. . . I couldn’t move, I couldn’t speak. I hadn’t just lost my beautiful son, I’d lost one of my best friends.”
Initially, Ms Buccianti was furious with festival organisers and campaigned to have the festival shut down.
She now admits her reaction was spurred by grief.
“I just didn’t know what to do. I was so angry,” she said.
“But I now realise what a beautiful and amazing production the Rainbow event is.
“It brings together people from all over Australia to celebrate life and living and that’s what Daniel was doing there, he was living.”
Ms Buccianti said it was a festival her son loved and a festival that wholeheartedly deserved its existence.
In 2013, Ms Buccianti attended her first Rainbow Serpent Festival and opened the event with a heart-wrenching speech to festival attendees.
“I just wanted to tell them about Daniel,” she said.
“But most importantly I wanted to tell them to be safe. To look after each other. Daniel’s death should never be in vain.”
On Monday, as she told of her son’s caring nature and love of life, she had another message for anyone heading to the festival this weekend.
“Have fun, but be safe,” she said. “Before you do anything, whether it be drugs or whatever, just think, ‘How would my mum react if she lost me . . . how would she feel?’.”
Festival director Tim Harvey shared Ms Buccianti’s sentiment and said the Rainbow community lost one of their own the day Daniel died.
“We are an extremely close-knit community and the effects of this tragedy were felt right throughout our staff, volunteers and patrons,” he said.
“We lost one of our own and it has demonstrated to us all the importance of looking out for and taking care of each other.
The team erected a chair at the Lexton site in Daniel’s honour, with thousands sitting on the chair each year, given the chance to reflect.
Daniel’s mother said she would do just that when she attended her third Rainbow event this weekend.
While a toxicology report was conducted, revealing the presence of drugs including prescription medication, Ms Buccianti has requested details of the results not be reported.