The fentanyl overdoses of five women in the parking garage of a high-end New Jersey mall where they all work a day ago was an isolated incident, authorities said as they shared an update on the investigation Thursday.
One of the women remained hospitalized in serious condition, while three others were released. The fifth victim refused medical attention at the scene, Hackensack police said. Cops responding to a 911 call found all of them lying on the ground of the lower parking deck at the Shops at Riverside, unresponsive. Each one was revived with Narcan.
Photos exclusively obtained by NBC New York showed first responders rushing to aid the women, helping save their lives after the quick-thinking of other witnesses who performed CPR.
The women range in age from 29 to 41. No other details -- other than that they worked at the mall -- were released.
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It wasn't clear how they ingested the potentially lethal drug -- fentanyl is up to 100 times more potent than heroin -- or if they even knew it was fentanyl. The opioid can be used to lace drugs like cocaine or heroin to produce a stronger effect, officials said. Tests are pending on the substance the women ingested to determine its components.
Investigators said mall operations had returned to normal and no customers were affected, apart from seeing a frenzied scene in the parking area Wednesday afternoon. There was no word on potential criminal charges, but investigators confirmed that a criminal investigation is now underway.
Hackensack Mayor John Labrosse condemned the drug scourge he says has taken over too many U.S. communities.
"It is truly heartbreaking to see the terrible toll taken by these illicit and dangerous substances," Labrosse said. "My office has been working closely with law enforcement since this tragic incident was first reported, and we will continue to offer any necessary support to the emergency responders and the rest of the community as the situation continues to unfold."
The investigation, which is being conducted by the Hackensack Police Department, the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office and the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office, is ongoing.
Fentanyl is considered one of the most lethal illicit drugs, one that is 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin and likely behind a rash of opioid overdoses and deaths across America in recent years. The Drug Enforcement Administration said in a PSA that it is "the deadliest drug we've ever seen," and that just two milligrams can be deadly.
In January, a 57-year-old teacher at a middle school in Westfield, New Jersey, overdosed in front of his students, authorities said. He was taken unresponsive from the scene. No update on his condition was available Thursday.