A Florida couple who suffered a fatal drug overdose in a car while their three children watched a movie in the backseat died from ingesting fentanyl, according to the medical examiner.
Daniel and Heather Kelsey grabbed headlines New Year’s Eve after authorities in Ormond Beach found the couple slumped outside a maroon Ford Freestyle pulled over with the hazards blinking on Interstate-4. Officers with the Florida Highway Safety Patrol found the couple’s three children, an infant, a 1-year-old and a 2-year-old, sitting strapped into their car seats watching a movie, reports EMS1.
Police quickly ruled out foul play but the investigation into their deaths remains open. The medical examiner pronounced the cause of death as fentanyl poisoning Saturday. The children are being cared for by family members.
“To me, this case underscores what the opioid epidemic is in America,” Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said Saturday, according to EMS1. “It’s a young couple with children, and, at the end of the day, they are now parentless because of how bad this crisis is.”
Officials note the opioid epidemic can affect anyone, regardless of class or income. A coroner revealed May 30 a Spirit Airlines pilot and his wife, who died from a drug overdose in March, ingested cocaine cut with carfentanil. Carfentanil is a synthetic analog of fentanyl roughly 10,000 times stronger than morphine and used for tranquilizing elephants.
The couple’s four children found their bodies and called emergency responders after they could not wake their parents up.
Rampant drug abuse in the U.S. is causing a crisis for social workers dealing with a massive influx of children displaced by parental addiction. Drug addiction is now the second leading cause for removal from parental custody, following child neglect, which social workers note is often exacerbated by drug use in the home.
A staggering 85,937 children went into foster care due to parental drug use in the U.S. in 2015, according to data from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System.
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