Drug exposure creates scare

Troopers decontaminated after carfentanil claim

Four Pennsylvania State Police troopers in Bedford were decontaminated last week amid fears they had been exposed to carfentanil, an increasingly common opioid that can kill even in tiny concentrations.

The troopers had to be decontaminated Wednesday after a suspect claimed a substance found at a crime scene was carfentanil, spokesman Trooper David McGarvey said.

The substance later turned out to be cocaine, he said.

The scare followed Bedford County Coroner Rusty Styer’s warning in June that the powerful drug had already appeared in Bedford County. Far more powerful even than the dangerous opioid fentanyl, carfentanil can cause overdose and death even from unintentional contact or inhalation.

McGarvey said police were called to the Bedford Travelodge motel on Wednesday to respond to a disturbance. There they found Joseph J. Swope II, 40, of Bedford, as well as a female suspect whose charges have not yet been posted.

“(Police) discovered drug paraphernalia and members were thought to be exposed to what Swope said was carfentanil,” McGarvey said.

The four troopers were taken away to be decontaminated, along with their equipment, he said.

The troopers did not require the use of naloxone, an anti-overdose drug some responders now carry in case of exposure.

McGarvey said police took the drug for lab testing and determined it was cocaine.

Swope faces one charge of risking catastrophe, a felony, as well as several misdemeanor counts of recklessly endangering another person. Court records show he remains in Bedford County jail in lieu of $75,000 bail.

Sometimes used as a heroin additive, carfentanil has appeared as a growing threat in many states. Styer said this summer that a Bedford County man who died of an overdose in May had used the drug, and predicted it would appear in greater quantities soon.

Officials have recommended responders carry naloxone in greater quantities — not only to rescue civilian overdose victims, but to save fellow responders who find themselves exposed.

Mirror Staff Writer Ryan Brown is at 946-7457.