Seven people were hospitalized, including five law enforcement officers and a tow truck driver, after coming into contact with a chemical at the scene of a collision on the Golden Gate Bridge Sunday afternoon, officials said.
The incident began after someone was spotted driving erratically on the Golden Gate Bridge, said a California Highway Patrol spokesperson. A Lexus was seen scraping the center barrier before coming to a stop just before noon.
Officers responded to the scene where one of them entered the vehicle in an attempt to turn the ignition off and found the driver unconscious and blue in the face.
Officers found what appeared to be cocaine with Fentanyl in it in the vehicle. Paramedics suspected the driver was under the influence of opioids so they administered two doses of Narcan.
In the process, the CHP and Golden Gate Bridge Patrol towed the Lexus to the other side of the bridge.
Moments later, the officer who initially reached into the vehicle became violently ill and unresponsive, authorities confirmed. Other officers on the scene also began to experience symptoms.
“The first officer that was there that had been in the vehicle immediately began to feel ill,” said CHP officer Andrew Barclay. “Based off his training he believed he may have been experiencing symptoms of Fentanyl exposure, very quickly those symptoms escalated and he became incapacitated.”
Fire officials arrived on the scene and administered Narcan to the officers.
“Once it’s determined that it’s a possible Fentanyl call, we have to treat it just as we do with all other infectious diseases or chemicals,” said Mill Valley Fire Chief Scott Barnes. “We have to wear proper equipment, otherwise we become the victim.”
The hazmat team from the Mill Valley Fire Department was called in to help decontaminate the car and several CHP cruisers and to treat some of those who were potentially exposed.
The team did not find traces of Fentanyl, but instead another chemical was found.
It has not yet been determined what the chemical was, although authorities did confirm that the substance found in the vehicle tested negative for Fentanyl. However, CHP officials said they suspect Fentanyl was involved as the symptoms and reaction to treatment were consistent with exposure to the drug.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid similar to morphine but 50 to 100 times more potent, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Typically used to treat patients with severe pain after surgery, illicitly produced fentanyl and similar synthetic opioids have been a driving factor in overdose deaths in the U.S. in recent years.
The seven people brought to the hospital following contact with the substance were four CHP officers, one Golden Gate Bridge patrol officer, one Golden Gate Bridge tow truck driver and the driver of the Lexus.
The driver of the vehicle was booked into San Francisco County Jail on suspicion of DUI and possession of a controlled substance.
All of those admitted to hospitals have been treated and released.