MIAMI – A 10-year-old Florida boy became one of the youngest victims of the state's opioid crisis after he collapsed and died in June, authorities said Tuesday.
Alton Banks, of Miami, died after a trip to a local swimming pool June 23. Once he got home he started vomiting and became unconscious, according to the Miami Herald. Paramedics took Alton to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Opioids are believed to have killed Alton, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle confirmed at a press conference Tuesday.
"Preliminary findings are that it was a mixture of fentanyl and heroin that killed this little boy," Rundle said.
Rundle added that investigators don't think the 10-year-old was exposed to the dangerous synthetic painkiller at home. The state attorney said that, considering fentanyl's potency, Alton could easily have overdosed after touching a towel or surface that the drug was on.
He might also have been exposed while walking home from the pool, Rundle said. Alton's neighborhood, Overtown, has been especially hard hit by opioids, with more people dying last year from overdoses – nearly 300 from fentanyl or fentanyl-variant drugs – than homicides, according to the Miami Herald.
The drug is so powerful – 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, according to the Centers for Disease Control – that accidental overdoses are not uncommon. In Florida, three dogs overdosed but survived after sniffing the drug during a police raid last fall. Those stories are leading many departments to take precautions.
In Lake County, they are now training K9 handlers to administer the antidote Naloxone, or Narcan, to their dogs if they feel they have overdosed.
Pete Gomez, an assistant fire rescue chief in Miami, said Overtown bears obvious signs of the depth of the crisis, with some streets littered with discarded needles. Gomez told the Associated Press that first responders commonly cut pockets out of the clothes of victims to avoid being stuck, and also wear gloves, masks and protective clothing to avoid touching or breathing the substance.
Authorities are asking anyone who knows how Alton might have come in contact with the opioids to reach out to police.
"The public might know if there is a dealer in the neighborhood, or someone that was using this substance," Rundle said, adding that she hopes to "bring some justice to families who are absolutely devastated" and possibly prevent a similar tragedy.