Fentanyl blamed for mass overdose in California that killed one and left 14 in hospital

Two police officers among those admitted for treatment after responding to incident in Chico

Peter Stubley
Sunday 13 January 2019 17:54 GMT
Police called to scene of mass fentanyl overdose in Chico, California

A suspected fentanyl overdose in California left one person dead and 14 in hospital – including two police officers who responded to the emergency.

The victims, believed to be aged between 19 and 30, were found in a life-threatening condition at a house in the city of Chico on Saturday morning and treated with the antidote naloxone.

One man was pronounced dead at the scene, four were taken to hospital in critical condition and another eight were also admitted for treatment.

Two police officers were also taken to hospital as a precaution after reporting feeling some ill effects, but were later released.

Chico chief of police Michael O’Brien said that investigators were attempting to trace the source of the drugs involved in what he described as a ”mass casualty incident” involving police, firefighters and ambulance staff.

“Every indication is that this mass overdose was caused by the ingestion of some form of fentanyl in combination with another substance, though that has yet to be confirmed,” he said during a press conference.

“These substances are extremely dangerous and it takes a small amount. There is potential for further fatalities, I want to emphasise that.

“It certainly would have been far worse without the response of police and firefighters and the care received by hospital staff.”

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Fentanyl can be up to 100 times stronger than heroin and accounted for nearly 30,000 deaths in the US in 2017.

Chico police officers began carrying naloxone in 2018 following warnings of an opioid crisis across the country.

“We have unfortunately been waiting for this to happen in the sense we knew fentanyl has been moving west,” said Mr O’Brien.

“Most of what we have had so far has been heroin-related. This is not the first time naloxone has saved lives in the city of Chico.”

The house in Santana Court was declared a “hazmat” (hazardous material) site and the road was sealed off until around 11pm local time on Saturday as the investigation continued.

Mr O’Brien said police were investigating any previous incidents at the address and said the victims were friends and acquaintances.

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