Crime & Public Safety

‘It’s a scary time right now’: 5 overdoses in 6 days across Beaufort County, police say

At least five people reportedly overdosed in Beaufort County within a six day period last week, according to police reports.

These non-fatal overdoses occurred a week after the county saw seven overdoses and two deaths within a five-day period, a trend that Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Bob Bromage called “disturbing.”

“Even three in a week period is higher than usual and means we’re still seeing an increase,” Bromage said this week, noting that the Sheriff’s Office responded to a total of four overdoses during the entire month of January 2018.

“This is a surge in drug overdose cases,” he said.

The recent overdoses occurred on Lady’s Island, Bluffton, Hilton Head Island and in Beaufort from Jan. 28 to Feb. 4 , according to the reports.

Here is a breakdown by day:

Tuesday, Jan. 28

A man overdosed in the same home on Sawmill Forest Drive in Bluffton where, three days before, a woman overdosed twice within twelve hours and subsequently died, according to police reports.

While responding to the incident, a deputy saw two needles and possible drug paraphernalia in the home and called investigators to the scene, according to a police report. That investigation is on going.

Thursday, Jan. 31

Sheriff’s deputies pulled over a vehicle on Wild Horse Road and U.S. 278 after an officer saw the driver enter “a well-known drug area” and leave a short time after arriving, a police report said.

The officer saw a “powder-like” substance in the front seat and called for K-9s to search the vehicle, the report said.

Officers did not find narcotics in the vehicle, according to the report, but a passenger told police he overdosed earlier that day. According to the report, the man in the car was transported by EMS to the hospital after overdosing earlier Thursday, but left the hospital before he was admitted. He did not say what drug he was using, but officers suspected heroin, according to the report.

Saturday, Feb. 2

One person was transported to an area hospital after an overdose at Sleep Inn on Boundary Street in Beaufort, according to a Beaufort Police Department report. Multiple narcotics and paraphernalia were seized during the incident. The report does not say what drug caused the overdose.

Around the same time, Beaufort County deputies responded to a reported overdose at a Lady’s Island residence on Cedar Point Drive, according to a police report. A man was transported to Beaufort Memorial Hospital after being given Narcan at the scene.

Police found a spoon with suspected heroin near the nightstand, the report said. The man who called police said he was addicted to pain killers and would “crush the pills and diluting them with water and filtering the opioid” before injecting them.

The man refused to say where he got the narcotics, according to the police report. He said he could “throw out letters like J or Q, but drug dealers don’t go by their real names.”

He also told police he didn’t want to tell on anyone.

Monday, Feb. 4

A Beaufort police officer was flagged down for an overdose near Family Laundry Center, a police report says.

The report says the victim was resuscitated and transported to an area hospital. No other information was available.

‘It feels like a waiting game’

From Jan. 24 to Jan. 27, two people died and a total of seven overdoses were reported across Beaufort County, according to police.

Three of the non-fatal overdoses were reported at the same bar — Mickey’s Pub and Grill, on Hilton Head. Three men in the bar on Jan. 27 told police they woke up in the hospital or with EMS surrounding them after consuming cocaine at the bar.

That spike in overdoes alarmed many islanders, who began spreading the word that some of the drugs might contain lethal does of fentanyl.

Matt Stock, a Hilton Head resident, posted an emotional video on Facebook last week that was viewed over 3,800 times.

“Whether people like it or not, cocaine is a huge part of the underground economy here and I’ve seen all walks of life on Hilton Head doing cocaine, from lawyers, doctors and business owners to the bottom of the business chain,” Stock said.

It’s “ a big part of the culture here ... and a lot of people don’t want to admit that,” he said. “But there is bad cocaine going around right now and it’s deadly and people need to be aware of this.”

Stock said he was moved to act after a friend who was using cocaine overdosed last Monday evening on Hilton Head.

“People we know and care about are getting hurt and even dying,” Stock said. “It’s a really scary time right now and it feels like a waiting game.”

Last week’s overdoses occurred the same weekend Hilton Head resident Vanessa Stewart led a 200-person heroin awareness walk in honor of her brother, who overdosed in June 2016.

“It literally broke my heart. Just so upsetting,” Stewart said of hearing about the recent rash of overdoses.

Stewart also posted a warning message on Facebook.

She said that whether people want to admit it or not, Hilton Head is part of the national opioid crisis.

“I normally feel really positive and happy after my brother’s Awareness Walk, but I don’t right now.....” she wrote in her post. “(The overdoses) need to stop.. And it’s not just about heroin, fentanyl is being cut with everything...”

Bromage said fentanyl usage in Beaufort County is “nothing new.”

In 2017, 12 of Beaufort County’s 26 overdose deaths involved fentanyl.

Six involved cocaine

Only one involved heroin, according to DHEC.

Bromage said many of those deaths involved a combination of drugs.

Repeating 2017?

Bromage said the number of overdoses in 2019 is starting to mirror 2017, when Beaufort County saw the highest number of drug overdoses in over five years.

More people died from drug overdoses in 2017 than in car accidents, according to data from the Beaufort County Coroner’s Office.

The county had 26 fatal drug overdoses and 24 car accident deaths that year, Nancy Horton, the county’s administrative deputy coroner said. Wednesday.

Last year, there were 12 overdose deaths and 30 car accident deaths, Horton said.

Bromage said detectives continue to investigate each of the recent overdose cases in an effort to find the source of the drugs. Investigators are awaiting laboratory results to determine whether fentanyl was laced with the drugs in some of the cases.

He said the Sheriff’s Office is planning an awareness event with the Beaufort County Alcohol and Drug Abuse Department to help address the issue.

The Sheriff’s Office encourages anyone in the county struggling with drug and alcohol addition to visit the BCADAD website for “treatment, counseling and support,” according to a previous press release.

The Sheriff’s Office has made no arrests in the recent overdose cases.

Mandy Matney is an award-winning journalist and self-proclaimed shark enthusiast from Kansas. She worked for newspapers in Missouri and Illinois before she realized Midwestern winters are horrible, then moved to Hilton Head in 2016. She is the breaking news editor at the Island Packet.