Manslaughter charge laid after carfentanil overdose in Alberta hotel

A sample of carfentanil. Red Deer RCMP

A Calgary man has been charged with manslaughter after a 48-year-old died from an overdose of carfentanil in an Edson hotel nearly one year ago.

RCMP were called to a sudden death at the hotel on Oct. 21, 2016. Officers arrived on scene and believed the man died from what they thought was a fentanyl overdose.

There were tablets and powder residue in the room. It was secured and safely searched by investigators.

Tests later confirmed the tablets were counterfeit OxyContin that contained carfentanil.

READ MORE: 390 pills of incredibly potent carfentanil seized from vehicle stop in Wood Buffalo 

The Chief Medical Officer determined Guy Kennedy died from a carfentanil overdose.

Carfentanil is an analog of the synthetic opioid analgesic fentanyl and is one of the most potent opioids known. It has a quantitative potency 100 times that of fentanyl, so dose as little as 20 micrograms would be fatal to an average human. There is no known application where carfentanil would be safe for human use, RCMP said.

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READ MORE: Fentanyl overdoses killed hundreds of Canadians this year, experts say 2017 could be deadlier 

Investigators were able to identify the person Kennedy obtained the drugs from.

On Sept. 22, 2017, Shawn Taras Prokopchuk, 32, was arrested and charged with trafficking carfentanil and manslaughter.

He was remanded into custody and will be appearing in Whitecourt Provincial Court on Sept. 26 via CCTV.

The RCMP said it marked the first time the Alberta RCMP has laid a manslaughter charge based “on an individual alleged to have been selling carfentanil.”

RCMP Cpl. Ron Bumbry said the threshold for laying a manslaughter charge is quite high.

“First we have to prove that a trafficker knew they were selling a controlled substance and next we have to show that a reasonable person would say the drug could cause bodily harm or death and finally, we have to prove that the drug has caused the death.

“We are losing innocent people to this drug,” Bumbry added.

“People who buy and use illegal drugs continue to trust the dealers that sell to them. Sooner or later, tragic incidents like this can and do occur.”

READ MORE: Edmonton police say drug dealer charged with manslaughter in connection with fentanyl overdose

Last October, the Edmonton Police Service laid its first manslaughter charge in relation to a man’s death caused by a fentanyl overdose.

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The EPS said the charge should send a message to anyone dealing fentanyl or other drugs.

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