SEATTLE – The principal of Ballard High School sent a warning to parents about the dangers of deadly contaminated pills. The alert came after the sudden death of Gabriel Lilienthal, a student at the school, who died of an accidental fentanyl overdose.
The letter stated Lilienthal’s family requested the school, “share that Gabe died of an accidental fentanyl overdose when he thought he was taking oxycodone.”
Lilienthal’s family said he was a straight-A student and was taking college courses to further his education. He was buried in Minneapolis, Friday, where he was raised.
Ballard High School students said they were still in shock of losing one of their own.
“It’s happening around the world. There’s this whole opioid crisis and it’s so crazy to think it’s so close our community that it’s happening too,” said Lulu Granquist, a junior. “It’s just not worth it. It’s not worth the risk because you never know.”
“The people who knew him were a little shocked. And then the teacher just encouraged everyone that the school is giving support for everyone, they have counselors in the office if need be,” said Julius Wichert, a senior.
Authorities said Lilienthal died after taking what he thought was oxycodone, but it was actually a fake pill laced with fentanyl. Some students said the dangers of the pills weren’t getting enough attention.
“It’s risky and not talking about it makes it more of a problem than it needs to be,” said Quinlan Kalthoff, a senior.
Lilienthal was one of three teens in King County since August that lost their life to a fentanyl overdose. The two other young men were students at Skyline High School in Sammamish.
The King County Sheriff said any pills purchased off the street are considered very dangerous and likely contained fentanyl. While investigators continued tracking down the source, the Seattle mayor said more education was vital.
“Parents need to do it, schools need to do it because many people believe that drugs are not dangerous. They are very dangerous. And having drugs laced with fentanyl is almost always deadly,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan.
The King County Health Department said fentanyl was 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. Health experts said even the smallest grains for fentanyl could be lethal.
Lilienthal’s family said as devastating as his death was, they planned to use it to raise awareness. They created the Gabriel Lilienthal Foundation to promote education to parents and young people about the dangers of the pills. The family said they immediately began seeing donations and support pouring in.