New details emerge after Tavares officer survives possible fentanyl exposure

FOX 35 News is investigating the dangers that law enforcement officers and first responders face when encountering drugs on the streets. Body camera video recently released by the Tavares Police Department shows one of their officers collapsing after what they are describing as possible exposure to fentanyl. 

Tavares Chief of Police said that the officer, Courtney Bannick, has made a full recovery. Chief Sarah Coursey also said the decision to release the video was made by Bannick herself. The veteran officer wanted to remind others that situations like this could happen to anyone. 

In the video, Bannick could be heard complaining of chest pain while struggling to remain conscious. At one point, she appears limp, and officers on the scene give her a dose of Narcan to bring her back. In total, she received three doses of the life-saving medication.

The Tavares Police Department said lab testing of the drugs found on the scene were positive for fentanyl and methamphetamine. 

RELATED: Florida officer collapses after possible exposure to fentanyl, police say

"She was wearing the gloves. She did everything right and this could still happen," said Chief Sarah Coursey. 

Chief Coursey said Bannick was in prolonged contact with the drugs as she searched the suspects and their car. 

"It could’ve been just a gust of wind that went into her tear duct or near her mouth or nose. It could’ve got on her arm and she went to wipe the sweat. It could’ve been anything, but she followed proper procedure," said Coursey. 

There’s been an ongoing debate between law enforcement and some in the medical community who say it’s nearly impossible to overdose on fentanyl at crime scenes. They point to studies done by the American College of Medical Toxicology which conclude that incidental contact with the drug is not enough to cause an overdose. 

An interview FOX 35 News conducted back in 2019 alluded to fear of the drug causing symptoms rather than the drug itself. 

"If you hear enough that getting close to this drug could make you get really sick, and then you find yourself close to that drug, some of these people are going to feel symptoms," said Dr. Andrew Stolbach of Johns Hopkins Hospital. 

However, in this case, one doctor tells FOX 35 it is absolutely possible. The fentanyl could have blown in her face, mouth, or nose, and she could have inhaled it. 

"She is an experienced officer who does this all the time," said Coursey. "Her speech was slurred. Her vision went. She went out. She stopped breathing. The officers had to render life-saving techniques."

The police department said Officer Bannick will be back on the job Friday. They said the officers who helped her on the scene will be formally recognized for their life-saving actions.