On June 23, the fifth-grader, Alton Banks, began vomiting and became unconscious when he returned home from a trip to the local swimming pool

By Jason Duaine Hahn
July 19, 2017 02:55 PM

A 10-year-old boy died from a drug overdose, possibly becoming one of the youngest victims of the opioid epidemic sweeping across all 50 states.

On June 23, the fifth-grader, Alton Banks, began vomiting and became unconscious when he returned home from a trip to the local swimming pool. He was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, where he was pronounced dead that night, according to the Miami Herald.

During a press conference on Tuesday, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said that Alton may have died from a deadly mixture of drugs that led to an overdose. “Preliminary findings are that it was a mixture of fentanyl and heroin that killed this little boy,” Rundle said.

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.

Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner Director of Operations Darren Caprara tells PEOPLE that the case is still officially under investigation by the medical examiner department, and, as of now, they cannot confirm the toxicology results. But preliminary findings so far is what compelled law enforcement to make the warning about fentanyl for public safety reasons.

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Caprara says that opioid deaths in the county are increasing. “In 2016, we had 235 homicides in Miami-Dade County that came into our office,” he says. “We had almost double that in terms of opioid related drug deaths in 2016.”

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 public might know if there is a dealer in the neighborhood or someone that was using this substance,” Rundle said during the conference. She urged people to come forward if they knew of dealers so that the Alton’s family may find justice for the death of their boy.

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Alton’s mother, Shantell Banks, who was informed of the cause of her son’s death last week, posted a heartbreaking funeral announcement to Facebook on July 3.

Alton’s death underscores the terrifying path of destruction that drugs like fentanyl have had in the United States. Fentanyl made headlines in April when Prince’s death was linked to the drug. Deaths from drug overdoses in America likely exceeded 59,000 in 2016, the largest annual jump ever in the country, according to the NY Times. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death of Americans under the age of 50.

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