Three Chelsea police officers were taken to the hospital after responding to a car crash involving three men suspected of drug overdose along Williams Street on the morning of Aug. 4.
The incident began with a rear-end collision and ended in a hazmat protocol after first responders suspected three males in their late 20s to early 30s of drug overdose and administered first aid. It ended with the three first responders experiencing symptoms of overdose after being exposed to suspected fentanyl found in a cigarette box inside the vehicle.
Both overdose patients and first responders ended up in the hospital for exposure to the drug fentanyl.
A Car Collision That Escalated Quickly
According to reports, a slow-moving gold minivan was involved in a rear-end collision and the driver of the other vehicle they rear-ended suspected that drugs were involved when she went to confront the minivan driver and found that the three male occupants in the vehicle were unresponsive.
The police and fire departments were called into the scene and, after verifying the other driver's suspicion, a first lieutenant from the fire department upgraded the situation to a hazmat incident and a properly equipped crew arrived to contain the potentially dangerous chemicals and drug paraphernalia in the vehicle.
The three men were immediately given first aid and one of the affected men was able to wake up after receiving CPR and a dose of Narcan. His two companions, however, needed more with one of the men requiring five doses to wake up while the other needing six. All three were sent to the Whidden Hospital in Everett after being revived and a hazmat crew quickly took over to contain potentially dangerous chemicals in the vehicle.
"The hazmat team recovered a package that had the powder in it and took the backpack as a precaution. There was no evidence of powder in the vehicle, in the seats or on the floor," Chelsea Deputy Fire Chief John Quatieri revealed.
The cigarette package containing the unknown white powder was analyzed and tested positive as fentanyl.
Change In Response Protocol
The first three responders went back to work but reported feeling sick later and went to Massachusetts General Hospital for treatment. Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes noted that none of the first responders saw or touched the actual drug in question but he believes they may have been exposed since it was airborne.
All three officers were released that same night but the harm that affected his men pushed Chief Kyes to modify protocols for officers responding to drug-related calls.
"We're going to purchase protective eyewear and protective masks for all officers, so in the event that we respond to these type of calls, it's going to be standard protocol for officers to wear this protective equipment ... It's a game-changer, and not just fentanyl but carfentanil when that comes to the area, which it probably will soon," Chief Kyes said.
He also urged all officers to protect themselves and be extremely proactive about it when responding to calls.