Health officials warn fentanyl, and other synthetic forms of the drug, can be so powerful that just inhaling or touching a small speck can be fatal. Detectives are still working to connect the dots of his final day and figure out where exactly he was exposed to the fatal drug.
Young victims — some curious toddlers who ingest the drugs by mistake — account for only a small amount of opioid victims. In 2015, there were 51 victims under the age of five, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, a number that is still an increase from over a decade ago.
Alton Banks returned home from a neighborhood outing at the local pool on June 23 and started vomiting. Family members later discovered him unconscious and rushed him to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead, the Miami Herald reported.
Investigators do not believe Alton purposefully took the drugs, but how he came into contact with it may remain a mystery. The CDC says that accidental overdoses from fentanyl are not uncommon. The drug is 80 times more potent than morphine, and it’s likely that Alton touched a surface—such as a towel—that the drug was on, either at the pool or on his way back to his home in Overtown.
The Miami-Dade Medical Examiner’s Office is still doing more testing, and a final report is pending. Authorities don’t generally disclose preliminary findings, but the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office agreed to comment publicly because of the unusual nature of the death and the need for tips in finding out how the boy might have come into contact with the drugs.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid and is one of the most deadly painkillers out there. In fact, it’s even deadlier than heroin, PBS Newshour reported.
Since 2015, at least 31 people have died from overdosing on the drug. In addition to that statistic, Miami-Dade paramedics used Narcan to bring victims back to life 1,700 times in just the first nine months of 2016.
Alton’s mother, Shantell Banks, was informed of the preliminary findings late last week. She was too distraught to speak in depth on Monday but said her son was a “fun kid” who wanted to become an engineer and loved the Carolina Panthers.
The death comes against the backdrop of a staggering opioid crisis that has wreaked havoc across the country, with hundreds of South Florida drug users fatally overdosing in recent years. But illegal fentanyl and some of its synthetic cousins can be so powerful that just a speck, breathed in or absorbed through the skin, can fatally affect an unwitting victim.
Shantell Banks, the mother of Alton Banks, a 10-year-old Miami boy who may be among Florida’s youngest opioid victims, posted in a tribute to him on her Facebook page. Miami detectives are investigating how he might have a potent painkiller that was found in his system, according to preliminary toxicology reports.
The emergence of fentanyl on the streets has become a massive problem because some drug dealers lace heroin with it, and drug users are generally left unaware of it. Therefore, when they inject the heroin, they could possibly — and unknowingly — take a deadly dose.
Across Florida, in the first half of 2016, fentanyl and its analogs killed 853 people while contributing to 135 more deaths, state records show. Of those, only nine were under the age of 18.
Investigators do not believe the boy came into contact with the drug at his home. “We believe that it was somewhere between the park or the pool or the sidewalk, or maybe he touched something,” Rundle said.