AMHERST, Va. – Seven Virginia 4th graders fell ill after consuming fentanyl-laced gummy bears at lunch brought from home by one of the students, according to Amherst County Public Schools. Five of the students required medical attention, with two transported by EMS and three taken to the hospital by their parents. The incident occurred at Central Elementary School in Amherst, initially mistaken for an allergic reaction. However, when the Amherst County Sheriff’s Office tested the bag that contained the gummy bears, traces of fentanyl were detected.
“All of the students had nausea and vomiting. Several of them exhibited signs of being lethargic,” Amherst County Public Safety director Brad Beam said during a press conference.
While all students have since recovered and left the hospital, Beam said this incident serves as a wake-up call for increased awareness.
“Please be aware of your children; make sure that they don’t touch anything that looks suspicious, and that they don’t take anything from anybody,” Kristina Wright told ABC 13.
Wright says her son ate gummy bears that his friend shared with him during lunch.
“I tried one; it tasted weird,” the student told ABC 13. “Then it tasted good. The aftertaste–it tasted really good.”
Two adults, Clifford Dugan and Nicole Sanders, are charged in connection with the incident, facing charges such as “delinquency” and “abuse of a child.” Lt. Dallas Hill mentioned that the investigation is ongoing, with the possibility of more arrests. While he doesn’t believe the poisoning was intentional, the rise in drug overdoses and poisonings is concerning.
“Make sure students are aware that anything you think is safe might not be. Really be vigilant about that. We’ve asked our Elementary especially just to be aware and not share food at lunch. It’s difficult with Kindergarten and 1st Graders because they’re not bringing stuff to school on purpose, but you never know what they have in their bags and what they get into contact with at home,” said Amherst County Public School superintendent Williams Wells.
This incident follows seven high school students in Loudoun, Virginia, overdosing during a three-week period in October.
“I don’t think there’s a week where I don’t get contacted about someone overdosing in the county,” said Wells.