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3 empty narcotics vials spark inquiry in Tarpon

By KATHERINE GAZELLA

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 14, 2000


TARPON SPRINGS -- Two vials of Valium and one vial of morphine were found broken and empty in locked boxes at the Tarpon Springs Fire Department over the weekend.

Tarpon Springs police and fire officials are investigating whether the narcotics were stolen from the vials or whether the vials broke accidentally and the contents leaked out, police Sgt. Tom Hill said.

Each of the three vials contained 10 milligrams of the drugs in liquid form.

The narcotics are used by paramedics at the Fire Department. Typically, two people will have access to the keys for the separate locked boxes on the department's two fire engines during each 24-hour shift, said Kevin Bowman, deputy chief of the Fire Department. There was no evidence that anyone tampered with the locks, he said.

Bowman said he doesn't have a theory about what happened.

"It's far too early in the investigation to say what we think," he said. "It may be a fluke and it may not be a fluke."

One vial of Valium, a tranquilizer, and the vial of morphine, a painkiller, were found during routine, daily checks Friday morning, Hill said. The other empty vial of Valium was discovered Sunday morning, he said. The vials were full during checks on previous days, he said.

Bowman learned about the missing drugs Monday morning and immediately contacted the Police Department, he said.

Every Fire Department employee is required to take a drug test before getting hired and during yearly physicals, Bowman said.

- Katherine Gazella can be reached at (727) 445-4182 or at gazella@sptimes.com.

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