Elephant tranquilizer carfentanil caused Chester man’s overdose

A Phoenixville man has been arrested on charges of selling carfentanil – which the Chester County coroner described as being “10,000 times more powerful than heroin and 100 times more powerful than fentanyl” – to a 34-year-old male who died of an overdose, officials announced Wednesday.

According to law enforcement officials, Damon Alfred Eskridge, 20, of Railroad Street in Phoenixville, has been charged with a drug delivery that resulted in the death of a man – whom police did not identify – due to a drug overdose in a home on the 300 block of Second Avenue in Phoenixville on July 4.

On July 5, Eskridge was charged with possession with the intent to deliver drugs, and related charges. He posted bail and was released, police said.

Following an autopsy of the deceased by the Chester County Coroner’s Office, coroner Dr. Gordon Eck found the presence of carfentanil in the blood of the overdose victim and, on July 17, Eck declared that the man’s death was caused by “acute carfentanil toxicity.”

Eskridge was re-arrested on July 18, and based on the toxicology results, he has been charged with drug delivery that resulted in death.

This is the first reported appearance of carfentanil in Chester County, prosecutors said, noting that the drug is “commonly used as a tranquilizing agent for elephants, horses, and other large animals” and is “known on the street as ‘gray death.’”

It is so powerful that a dog can die from accidentally smelling the drug, and most vets and zoos only keep 20 grams at a time. Just 2 milligrams can be fatal to a human.

Law enforcement officials said that carfentanil can be lethal to humans in amounts less than 1 milligram.

“Think of a couple of grains of salt. That is the amount of carfentanil that can kill a drug user looking for a new high, or a police officer unlucky enough to accidentally ingest the drug” said Chester Co. District Attorney Tom Hoganin a statement. “In Chester County, we are working together every day to keep this poison out of our homes, schools and businesses.”

According to police, Eskridge was arrested after undercover police set up a drug buy, looking for heroin, from him by using the cell phone of the overdose victim.

Law enforcement officials said that when Eskridge was arrested after he came to the meeting place, he was found with bundles of suspected heroin in baggies in his possession that were stamped with the name “New Arrival.” Bags similarly stamped with this name were also found among the paraphernalia found on the deceased, police said. 

According to the Chester County District Attorney’s Office, Eskridge could face up to 20 to 40 years in prison if convicted.

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