Seven people wearing orange wristbands were hospitalized – and three of them are dead – after a likely drug overdose on the South Side of Pittsburgh on September 21, 2019.
In an 8:43 a.m. update on September 22, Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich confirmed three people were dead and four people were in the hospital with conditions ranging from serious to critical. “Five victims found in apartment, one in elevator outside apartment and one on street at 26th/Carson,” a news release from Pittsburgh Public Safety read.
What was the cause? Authorities suspect a drug overdose, saying in a press release that “the initial investigation into the Southside medical incident suggests this was a drug-related overdose.” The names of those who died have now been given as Rubiel Martinez, 32, of Columbus; Josue Serrano, 38, of Carthage; and Joel Pecina, 32, of Coraopolis.
The release continued, “The victims — including three people who died and four who remain hospitalized — appear to have been at the same venue together, and then to have gone to a second location at a private residence where they apparently overdosed on drugs. The victims all took the narcotics at the same time and in the same location.”
Public Safety responded: “To be clear, this was not a case of a tainted drug being passed around or distributed in large volume at a large venue which could have affected even more people. It appears to have been isolated to a single location. However, police are concerned about a tainted, potentially deadly batch of drugs in the community. We remind the public not to use drugs. Simply put: You do not know what’s in that drug.”
They added: “Regarding the orange wristbands: Police identified multiple venues in the city that used orange wristbands last night for events and concerts. News reports linking this incident to specific venues are incorrect. Anyone who attended one of these events has no cause for concern regarding their health. Public Safety would like to thank the media and public for helping us quickly disseminate information, and for calling in countless tips.”
Initially, police said they identified two such events in the city that night. “Police have identified two venues that were using orange wrist bands last night,” they wrote in an earlier release.
The Pittsburgh Public Safety office wrote in the news release early on that, “Pittsburgh Police are responding to a medical situation in the South Side. Police can confirm multiple hospitalizations and deaths. All of the victims are wearing orange paper bands on their wrists.”
The victims were not yet identified, but, according to CNN, they are all middle-aged men (another report says one is 33 years old). Police who responded to a 911 call around 2 a.m. on Saturday September 21, 2019 found men either unconscious or partially conscious.
Here’s what you need to know:
Police Were Seeking Knowledge of a Party or Event Where People Were Given Orange Wristbands
The calls for help came in at different times, including 3:20 and 5:40 a.m., according to The New York Times.
Pittsburgh authorities are still trying to trace the orange wristbands. It’s not clear which venue police believe the people attended; a video circulated online showing people wearing orange wristbands at one event, but, again, police haven’t specified where the people got them.
WPXI reported that area hospitals were asked to keep an eye out for more patients with orange wristbands who might be suffering similar symptoms.
“Anyone who attended or has knowledge of a party or event in which guests were given orange wrist bands, please call Police at (412) 323-7141,” the public safety officials wrote. “More details will be released when available.”
According to WTAE-TV, police received a 911 call alerting them to the incident. Air quality has been ruled out as a possible cause. The station reported that police were at South Side Works City Apartments on Tunnel Boulevard. According to USA Today, “The South Side Flats area includes a bevy of bars, restaurants and eclectic stores.”
People Reacted on Social Media to the Orange Wristband Angle
Although it’s obviously a very serious matter with zero humor involved, some people couldn’t help but reacting to the oddity that the victims were wearing orange wristbands. “This southside orange wristband situation is insane,” wrote one woman on Twitter.
“Orange wristband BAD,” wrote another. “The ‘all we know is everyone was wearing orange wristbands’ part is so sinister to read,” a man wrote on Twitter. “Regarding the orange wristband incident making the news right now. I’m guessing whatever sickened/killed those people happened after the event they attended. They just happened to still have their wristbands on. If it were the event there would be many more ill/dead,” speculated another Twitter user.
This post is being updated as more information is learned about the orange wristband deaths.
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