Vermont Business Magazine Following continued investigation and laboratory analysis, the substance Trooper Flansburg encountered has been identified as heroin. The results of any medical tests must remain confidential due to Trooper Flansburg’s personal privacy rights. The ultimate cause of the incident in March is inconclusive.
Trooper Flansburg, who was an acting sergeant at the time of this incident while the New Haven Barracks commander was away on temporary assignment, has since returned to full duty as a trooper.
“We are grateful that Trooper Flansburg has recovered and returned to work,” said Vermont State Police director Col. Matthew T. Birmingham.
Birmingham and Vermont Public Safety Commissioner Thomas D. Anderson emphasized that although the cause of this incident remains unknown, agencies including the federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and U.S. Customs and Border Protection warn first responders about the potential hazards of encountering powerful opioids.
“While we know that the risk of overdose from merely touching these drugs is low, we take the CDC at its word when it says first responders face possibly life-threatening consequences through exposure routes including inhalation, mucous membrane contact, ingestion and needles,” Anderson said.
Despite those risks, Anderson and Birmingham added, police and first responders will continue to do their jobs with professionalism and urgency, as they always have.
“Emergency personnel rush toward danger every day to protect public safety and save lives,” Birmingham said. “Whether responding to an unfolding law-enforcement situation or to help a person who is experiencing an overdose, we remain as committed as ever to serving those in need.”
Because of the privacy issues surrounding this investigation, the Vermont State Police is unable to provide any additional comment.
***Update No. 1, Monday, March 18, 2019***
The investigation into the serious medical event experienced early Saturday morning by Acting Sgt. Brett Flansburg is continuing Monday. Thorough testing is underway to examine all possibilities that might have played a role in this incident.
Because of the sensitive and ongoing nature of this investigation, the Vermont State Police will have no further comment at this time. Updates will be provided when they are available.
***Initial news release, Saturday, March 16, 2019***
LEICESTER, Vermont (March 16, 2019) — A Vermont state trooper is recovering Saturday after he collapsed following a traffic stop in the Addison County town of Leicester and was revived by multiple doses of Narcan.
The incident began at about 11:25 p.m. Friday, March 15, 2019, when Acting Sgt. Brett Flansburg of the New Haven Barracks stopped a vehicle for a traffic violation on West Street in the town of Leicester. While speaking with the driver, Sgt. Flansburg observed the passenger swallow an item. The passenger, later identified as Taylor C. Woodward, 25, of Brandon, admitted the item was a baggie of cocaine.
During a subsequent search of the passenger and the vehicle, Sgt. Flansburg located and collected as evidence a small quantity of heroin in a baggie, an empty plastic baggie, and a syringe. Woodward was taken into custody by other troopers on the scene for processing on suspicion of possessing heroin.
While transporting the evidence to the New Haven Barracks, Sgt. Flansburg began to feel ill. When he arrived at the barracks, he called for help and collapsed in the parking lot. Fellow troopers found him unresponsive and rapidly administered two doses of the opiate overdose reversal drug Narcan. The sergeant received a third dose of Narcan while being rushed to the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington, and he began to show signs of improvement. At the hospital, Sgt. Flansburg received additional medical treatment and later was released.
As a precaution, Woodward was brought separately to UVMMC to be checked out and was determined to require no medical care. He was cited to appear in Vermont Superior Court, Criminal Division, in Middlebury on May 6 to answer a misdemeanor charge of possession of heroin.
Col. Matthew T. Birmingham, director of the Vermont State Police, instructed VSP’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Narcotics Investigation Unit to conduct a full investigation of this incident. Testing is underway to determine the substance to which Sgt. Flansburg was exposed. The investigation is being led by Maj. Dan Trudeau, commander of VSP’s Criminal Division.
“Being a state trooper is a dangerous and demanding job for all the reasons you’d expect: apprehending criminals, encountering volatile individuals, rushing toward emergencies rather than away. And now there is a new threat that we’re seeing up close: the risk of exposure to powerful drugs that can kill in even tiny amounts. This is so troubling and disconcerting, and it places members of law enforcement at unnecessary risk of possibly losing their lives,” Col. Birmingham said.
“We are incredibly lucky and extremely thankful that Sgt. Flansburg is alive and recovering today,” the colonel added. “Were it not for the immediate availability of Narcan and the quick actions of his fellow troopers and medical personnel, we might be speaking today about the death of a trooper in the line of duty. I’m angry at how close we came, and relieved that the situation was no worse than it was.”
Source: Vermont State Police