Students’ deaths have community on alert

Park City Police Chief Wade Carpenter and Park City School District Superintendent Ember Conley field questions on Tuesday about the deaths of two Treasure Mountain Junior High School students. The cause of their deaths had not yet been determined but school and police officials have issued a warning that a new synthetic drug may be connected.
Nan Chalat Noaker/Park Record

A pair of Treasure Mountain Junior High students, described by Park City School District Superintendent Ember Conley as best friends, were found dead at their homes early this week. And police, though there was no evidence indicating drugs were involved, are using the deaths to warn parents about a new, potentially lethal drug that has made its way to Park City.

According to Park City Police Chief Wade Carpenter, Grant Seaver, 13, was found Sunday morning, while Ryan Ainsworth, also 13, was discovered early Tuesday. As of Tuesday morning, the causes of death were not known. Though the boys were friends and the close timings of their deaths were alarming, police had not been able to connect them. The investigations are ongoing.

There was nothing to suggest that either boy had overdosed, but “chatter” on social media from students throughout the community had police on high alert about a synthetic opioid called Pink or Pinky. At a joint press conference Tuesday morning hosted by the police department and the school district, Carpenter said that, despite the lack of evidence of drug involvement, police are erring on the side of caution and using the tragedies to spread the word about Pink.

“We don’t want to take any chances,” he said, adding that the drug is on the rise in Utah and that police believe it is in Park City.

The worry, Carpenter said, stems from how lethal Pink can be. It kills first-time drug users and experienced addicts alike, and he described it as 70 times more deadly than the highly addictive narcotic fentanyl.  Conley said the drug, which is often crushed into powder then snorted, is typically sold online, with sellers primarily marketing it to teenagers.

The way Pink is marketed is so pervasive, Conley said, that the school district’s web filters didn’t stop her when she did an online search for the term from her office computer. Almost immediately, she found a website selling the drug and marketing it as “Scooby Snacks,” a reference to the cartoon “Scooby-Doo.”

Police had not confirmed any instances of students bringing the drug to school, Carpenter said. There were no plans to conduct school-wide searches for the drug.

On Monday, students at Treasure Mountain Junior High were reeling from the death of Seaver, Conley said. They learned of Ainsworth’s death Tuesday morning at school. The district activated its “crisis team,” utilizing school counselors and resources from the Utah Board of Education and Valley Behavioral Health to provide students at all the district’s schools with support.

The district also sent out alerts to parents Tuesday morning, informing them of the two deaths.

In the wake of the deaths, and because of the risk Pink presents, Conley is encouraging parents to be vigilant. She said parents have the obligation to go through their children’s belongings and search their phones and computers if they suspect drug use or see troubling shifts in their children’s behavior. Additionally, parents should intercept unexpected packages sent to their homes.

Being on alert, she said, could save their child’s life.

“This is a whole new ballgame for parents,” she said. “From my end, that’s why we’re here.”

Carpenter added that parents should not touch the drug if they find it because it can be dangerous to the touch. Instead, they should call the police.

There was no timeline for the completion of the police investigations into the deaths. Carpenter said officers searched the homes of both boys and have begun conducting interviews with their friends and acquaintances.  Police were awaiting toxicology reports from the medical examiner’s office, but had no indication of when they would be completed.

Students who have any information about the deaths or about the presence of Pink in Park City are encouraged to speak with teachers, school counselors or their parents.


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