WESTERLY — Police Chief Shawn Lacey said a delay in reporting an apparent drug overdose may have played a role in the death of a Westerly woman early Tuesday.
The police said the woman, 48, a resident of White Rock Road, was pronounced dead at about 1 a.m. after efforts to resuscitate her were unsuccessful. Lacey said an autopsy would officially determine the cause of death, but all evidence points to an overdose. He said late Wednesday that he believed she would still be alive if emergency personnel had been notified sooner.
"It isn't a case of anyone doing anything wrong, but if it was reported when the witness had first arrived, I do feel like we'd be having a different discussion," Lacey said.
According to police reports, officers went to the woman's apartment after a neighbor called 911 to report that a man was yelling for help in the woman's apartment and asking for Narcan.
The police said the man had spoken with the victim earlier in the evening and the two planned to get together. He arrived late Monday night and found her sitting against a wall, slouched over but breathing. The man told police she had "been like that before" and he didn't suspect anything; instead, he decided to wait for her to wake up.
When an hour went by and she still wasn't moving, he told the police that he tried to wake her. The police said he dragged her to a shower and sprayed her with water. Then he screamed for help, and the neighbor made the emergency call.
By the time emergency responders arrived, Lacey said she had been unconscious for an estimated 1½ hours.
The suspected overdose was one of two such local fatalities in the past week. Richmond police confirmed that a 40-year-old man was found dead at his Wood River Junction home late Saturday morning. Police Chief Elwood M. Johnson Jr. said a family member immediately called for help, but he could not be revived.
The Office of State Medical Examiners will conduct an autopsy to determine the cause of death, Johnson said.
Lacey urged any resident who comes across someone who is acting out of sorts to call for help immediately. Just a few moments can mean the difference between life and death in such cases, he said.
"We want residents to know that if you are calling about an overdose to try and save a life, you will not be in trouble," Lacey said. "We aren't concerned about charging someone if the call is one that could save a life."