EAST HARTFORD, Conn. –
On the afternoon of June 4, 2022, Air Force Staff Sgt. Carlos Hernandez-Garcia happened to be in the right place at the right time.
Hernandez-Garcia was driving in East Hartford, Connecticut when he noticed a vehicle stopped at the intersection of Burnside Avenue and Main Street. As he saw people congregating around the vehicle, Hernandez-Garcia knew that something was wrong.
“It didn't appear to be in an accident,” said Hernandez-Garcia, a Connecticut State Trooper who also serves as an aerospace ground equipment specialist in the Connecticut Air National Guard. “From my training and experience, I knew it was one of two things- either the driver was having some kind of medical issue or possibly a drug overdose.”
Hernandez-Garcia, off-duty at the time of the incident, pulled his vehicle over to the side of the road, grabbed his window punch and immediately took action to assist.
“It seemed like they couldn't get the attention of the driver,” said Hernandez-Garcia. “There was a lady that was there and she identified herself as the sister of the driver. The sister was doing her own errands and was coming from a different direction when she just happened to recognize his car. She said that her brother had a drug history, so she assumed that he probably overdosed. We tried to open the doors but all the doors were locked. At that point, I took my window punch and I punched out one of the rear windows.”
After gaining access to the vehicle, Hernandez-Garcia determined that the vehicle operator was unresponsive and directed the operator’s sister to call 9-1-1. With the assistance of another off-duty law enforcement officer from Cromwell, Hernandez-Garcia was able to unlock the vehicle doors. The Cromwell officer then received Narcan (naloxone) nasal spray, a medicine used to treat suspected opioid overdoses, from another bystander and administered the medicine to the unresponsive operator.
“We administered Narcan and got the operator alert and conscience,” said Hernandez-Garcia. “He was able to state his name and identified what drug he used. In this case, he said that he had smoked fentanyl, which is one of the opioids that causes a lot of deaths now in the country.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 107,000 people in the United States died of drug overdoses and drug poisonings in the 12-month period ending in January 2022. 67 percent of those deaths involved synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl. In Connecticut, residents are more likely to die from an unintentional drug overdose than a motor vehicle accident. Reports estimate that naloxone has prevented thousands of opioid-related deaths in the United States.
“Luckily someone that was walking by happened to carry Narcan,” said Hernandez-Garcia. “Someone in the public just was able to help us save this man's life. That's what we're here for is to help other people, regardless of the situation or where we're at or the time and place.”
Learn more about naloxone and recommendations for who should carry naloxone at www.cdc.gov.