September 18th 2023.
Authorities in New York were shocked to discover the tragic death of 1-year-old Nicholas Feliz-Dominici who had ingested a lethal dosage of synthetic opioid fentanyl while at a daycare. Grei Mendez, the owner of the Divino Niño Daycare Center in the Bronx, was arrested and charged with murder, manslaughter, assault, drug possession, and child endangerment. Carlos Acevedo Brito, a 41-year-old man who lived with Mendez, faces the same set of charges.
New York Police Department Commissioner Edward Caban said the incident was 'every parent's worst nightmare.' At a press conference on Saturday night, Caban said, “We should not be here. These children do not deserve this. Please pray for them and their families.”
When police responded to the 911 call from the daycare around 2.40pm on Saturday, September 16, they found three unresponsive children at the facility – two boys, ages 1 and 2, and an 8-month-old girl. NYPD Assistant Chief of Detectives Joseph Kenny said all three children were “demonstrating symptoms of opioid exposure.”
Paramedics administered Narcan to the children and rushed them to Montefiore Hospital. Unfortunately, Nicholas Feliz-Dominici was pronounced dead on arrival. However, the other two children, the boy and the 8-month-old girl, survived the incident. As of Monday, the girl is in stable condition, while the boy remains in critical condition.
Police later discovered that a fourth child, another 2-year-old male, had experienced similar symptoms after his mother had picked him up around 12.15pm the same day. Detective Kenny said, “Once home, the child’s mother noticed that the kid was acting lethargic and unresponsive. He was brought to Bronx Care Hospital where he was administered Narcan, and his life was saved.”
After a search of the facility, police found a package containing one kilogram of the dangerous synthetic opioid, as well as several thousand dollars in cash. They also found a kilo press, which Detective Kenny described as “an item that is commonly used by drug dealers when packaging large quantities of drugs.”
New York City Mayor Eric Adams said the incident serves as a warning to opioid users with young children. Adams said, “This can have an impact on your family and an impact on your children. This is a real wakeup call for individuals who have opioids or fentanyl in their homes. Mere contact is deadly for an adult, and is extremely deadly for a child.”
Dr Ashwin Vasan, commissioner of the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said that fentanyl can affect children by inhalation, ingestion, or even exposure to a child’s skin. He said, “What it tells us is that the overdose crisis affects all of us.”
Divino Niño had only opened in January of 2023 and had passed its most recent inspection, which occurred just one week earlier on September 9. An investigation into how the children ingested the dangerous drug is still ongoing.
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