Steve Gollan, battalion chief of Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue, told WTVJ on Friday that four of the people involved took a substance that appeared to be cocaine laced with fentanyl, and that two other people in the group were exposed to the opioid when they tried to administer CPR. The two people exposed to the fentanyl also went into cardiac arrest, Gollan said.
“Officers from the Wilton Manors Police Department took precautionary measures by evacuating and securing the residence due to the unidentified powdery substance,” police said in a news release. “The Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue Hazmat Team responded to the scene, tested the material and discovered the substance was laced with the powerful and deadly synthetic opioid drug, Fentanyl.”
All six of the men were administered Narcan, an emergency medicine that restores breathing halted by overdoses of fentanyl, Gollan said.
Military Academy spokeswoman Beth R. Smith confirmed to The Washington Post that four cadets, including one football player, were taken to the hospital. A fifth cadet was not taken to the hospital, she said. One of the young men involved is not a cadet. None of the individuals involved have been publicly identified, and police have identified them only as “college students on Spring Break from the State of New York.”
“The U.S. Military Academy is aware of the situation involving West Point cadets that occurred Thurs. night in Wilton Manors, FL,” Smith said in a statement. “At this time, the incident is under investigation and no other details are available at this time.”
Gollan told local media Friday that two of the men were in critical condition and were intubated in intensive care units. He added that another was in stable condition and that three patients had been released from the hospital. Smith said she did not have updates on the conditions of those involved as of early Saturday.
The Wilton Manors Police Department announced late Friday that one person has been arrested by the city police and the Broward County Sheriff’s Office in relation to the incident. They did not release any further details.
The Broward County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday.
The news comes not long after the U.S. drug epidemic hit another terrible milestone. The government announced in November that more than 100,000 people had died of overdoses between April 2020 and April 2021, marking the first time that drug-related deaths have reached six figures in any 12-month period.
When it comes to fentanyl — the synthetic substance that has displaced heroin in many parts of the United States — data shows there are now more overdose deaths from the illegal synthetic opioid than there were overdose deaths from all drugs in 2016. There were more than 64,000 deaths linked to fentanyl by the end of April 2021, according to data.
As spring break gets underway in much of the country, authorities are warning young people of potential fentanyl exposure. Wilton Manors, located 10 minutes north of downtown Fort Lauderdale, is no exception. Gollan told the New York Times that his units have responded to 215 possible overdoses this year.
Wilton Manors police tweeted out a warning to all spring breakers about the dangers of fentanyl.
“This is extremely alarming to us, here we are in the first week of spring break and we have something like this taking place,” Gollan said to WTVJ. “Obviously if there’s a bad batch, it’s normally not isolated just to one buyer, it normally goes to everyone that purchased that same substance from whoever they got it from. It brings great concern that there could be other ODs over the next couple of days.”
Police said in a news release that they are committed to preventing fentanyl in Wilton Manors during spring break and long after college students leave Florida.
“This synthetic opioid continues to have detrimental impacts on many communities, and our agency remains committed to drug prevention and intervention initiatives,” police said. “Our agency also remains committed to investigating and prosecuting acts of illegal drug activity.”