A Spirit Airlines pilot and his wife were found dead by their children in March in their Ohio home, having overdosed on a lethal combination of cocaine and carfentanil, the coroner’s office in Montgomery County, Ohio, confirmed on Tuesday. The toxicology results confirm what the coroner’s office had previously hinted at: the commercial passenger airline pilot died of an accidental drug overdose, according to People.
A spokeswoman for the coroner’s office said that Ohio couple Brian and Courtney Halye combined the two potent substances, which led to their death. Carfentanil, a synthetic analog and powerful derivative of fentanyl, is often used to tranquilize rhinoceroses and elephants. It is not clear if the Halyes knew the cocaine they were taking contained carfentanil.
On March 16, Brian Halye, 36, and Courtney Halye, 34, were found dead in their Dayton-area home by their four children when they peeked into their parents’ bedroom. The couple did not wake them up for school like they usually did, rousing concern in them. Brian and Courtney each had two children from their previous relationships — he, two daughters and she, a son and a daughter.
The son, 13-years-old, then called 911 and told the operator, “I just woke up and my two parents are on the floor.”
All the children have been placed with relatives, state officials confirmed.
Both the husband and wife injected the drug, but medical examiners are not sure if the Halyes knew that the cocaine they were taking had been laced with carfentanil, which is 1,000 times more powerful than morphine. However, autopsy reports indicate that they took the drug by injection; Courtney Halye had needle puncture marks on her right thigh and left wrist while Brian Halye had a single needle puncture mark on his right arm.
Intentionally injecting cocaine into the body with morphine, heroin, or other drugs is known as a “speedball” or “powerballing.” These mixtures are often more potent than the sum of their parts, through drug synergy. The original speedball used cocaine hydrochloride mixed with morphine sulfate, as opposed to heroin.
A police incident report from January of 2016 alleged that Courtney — a type 1 diabetic — had a history of drug use, Daily Mail reported. Nancy Casey, Courtney’s mother, contacted the police in January of 2016, claiming that her daughter was a victim of drug abuse and had threatened to harm herself. According to Casey, Courtney had been “hooked on drugs” on and off for about seven years. She was also being treated for depression and was on prescribed medication.
The deaths came a week after Brian Halye’s last flight, prompting criticism of the random system used to test pilots. The toxicology and autopsy reports do not indicate if Halye had ever used drugs before flying an airplane, but it’s also unknown when Halye was last subjected to a drug test.
“The random nature of testing means that people can, in fact, get away with things like this,” said Ashley Nunes, a regulatory analyst with the MIT Center for Transportation & Logistics. “It’s certainly concerning to me someone could take cocaine, or have the lack of common sense to take cocaine and fly an airplane”. Airlines officials in March said Brian who flew for the airline for nine years, captained his last Spirit Airlines flight six days before the overdose.
The United Nations has labeled fentanyl as one of the most dangerous substances in the world. Officials in the U.S. are becoming increasingly concerned about fentanyl and carfentanil appearing in cocaine supplies, which is already being seen in Chicago and New York. The development is particularly alarming for law enforcement who note that unlike heroin, cocaine is more widely used as a social drug. Since January, the Montgomery County has seen 165 accidental drug overdoses, with heroin, fentanyl, and carfentanil being the current mix of drugs most seen by Montgomery County Coroner’s Office Director Ken Betz.
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