KAMLOOPS – There was a full hazmat response for possible fentanyl exposure after a baggie with white powder broke open during a scuffle in the holding cells at the Kamloops Law Courts yesterday evening.
B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union vice-president Dean Purdy says an in-custody person in the cell blocks area of the courthouse was not cooperating with deputy sheriffs yesterday, March 15.
"It was an incident in the courthouse cells and we had an in-custody inmate that refused to be searched due to a suspicion of drugs," Purdy says. "During (a scuffle), drugs came out of his possession, went airborne, exposing the deputy sheriffs and the inmate."
During the altercation, Purdy says one sheriff was exposed to blood and bodily fluids from an in-custody person and will need to receive ongoing treatment. It's not known to what extent the unknown substance impacted the sheriffs, but Purdy says it's cause for concern.
"There was concern of contamination and the possibility that the contents could contain fentanyl," Cpl. Cheryl Bush says in a release.
Bush says four sheriffs and one prisoner were taken to hospital as a precaution. The incident is still under investigation while police determine if charges will be laid.
"Because of the concern around fentanyl and carfentanil, we take this very seriously," Purdy says. "Corrections officers, sheriffs, police are already subject to many traumatic events. You add in situations like this and it just adds to a very difficult job they have."
Purdy says the union will look for recommendations from the investigation into the incident in hopes they can prevent situations like this in the future.
He says at least one sheriff will need to take time off of work but he isn't sure about the other three affected sheriffs. iNFOnews.ca reported earlier this week that Kamloops sheriffs were being transported to help mitigate the sheriff shortage in Victoria. Purdy says yesterday's incident and the transport of sheriffs will have an impact on staffing levels.
"There will be an impact because provincewide we're running short," Purdy says.
Kamloops Fire Rescue crews responded to the incident and decontaminated several patients.
"Yesterday we got a call of a possible hazmat incident. We were told it was a white powder, we don't know what the powder was, so we treated it as we would any other hazmat incident," assistant fire chief Curtis Bossert says.
Kamloops Fire Rescue crews treated several people who were in custody of the Kamloops Sheriff Department.
"Our role was to look after patients, anyone who was contaminated. We started by rinsing them with copious amount of water to get the bulk of product off. Then we do a secondary decontamination and they are passed to the B.C. Ambulance Service," Bossert says.
Bossert says every hazmat response is different, depending on the circumstances. When crews know what the material is, they can respond in a different way. Since not much was known about this substance, firefighters treated it as a general hazmat case.
"Our priorities are always life and safety. Our objective is to help anyone who is involved, to get them decontaminated, and passed along to BCAS."
— This story was updated at 12:40 p.m. on Thursday, March 16, 2017 to include comments from Dean Purdy.
— This story was updated at 1 p.m. on Thursday, March 16, 207 to include information from Kamloops RCMP.
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