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Police: 2 Greensburg residents hindered efforts to help OD victim

Friday, Jan. 31, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
 

Two people hindered efforts to help a Greensburg man when he overdosed this week after using four stamp bags of potentially deadly heroin marked with the name “Theraflu,” city police said.

Authorities charged Thomas M. Dreveniak, 58, and Megan Ann Wigle, 30, both of Greensburg, with hampering officers' attempts to aid David Matthew Bramini, 31, as he lay barely breathing on a kitchen floor in a Harrison Avenue apartment around 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

Both Dreveniak and Wigle were charged Thursday with recklessly endangering another person, a misdemeanor.

“The help was there, the police were there, and they were trying to hinder that help from getting to him,” Greensburg police Capt. Chad Zucco said.

Under Pennsylvania law, bystanders must impede the efforts of authorities at an overdose scene to be charged with a criminal offense, unless they have some tie to the drug delivery, Zucco explained.

“Unlike a hit-and-run accident, there's no duty to render aid,” Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck said. “They have a moral duty, but not a legal duty.”

Tony Marcocci, a Westmoreland County detective, said charges are rarely filed against bystanders at a heroin overdose. “Either they don't call ... or they stand outside waving the police in,” he said.

Neither Dreveniak nor Wigle could be reached for comment.

Bramini's 10-year-old son called 911 after he couldn't wake his father, police said. The boy, who was put in the care of the Westmoreland County Children's Bureau, hung up the phone and sought the help of adults in the apartment building.

The 911 dispatcher called the apartment back. Dreveniak, a relative of Bramini, told the dispatcher there was no emergency, police said. Dreveniak said he had seen people overdose before and he didn't think any outside help was needed, authorities said.

Wigle tried to turn away Greensburg patrolman Jason Gain, who went to the apartment because of the 911 hang-up, authorities said.

Wigle told Gain that no help was needed, police said, then closed the door to the apartment where Bramini was lying.

Gain said he used a key in the lock to open the door, went into the apartment and found Bramini on the floor, surrounded by several people. Bramini was pale, unconscious and breathing shallowly, Gain said.

Later, Bramini said he used four bags of heroin stamped “Theraflu” before he fell unconscious, police said.

Authorities found six stamp bags of Theraflu — a fentanyl-laced heroin responsible for more than 20 deaths in Western Pennsylvania in the last 10 days — in a pill container near Bramini.

Three of those deaths occurred in Allegheny Township, Lower Burrell and Tarentum.

Other overdoses have been reported in Arnold, New Kensington, Greensburg, Derry Township and Lower Burrell in Westmoreland County; Plum, Harrison and Fawn in Allegheny; and the Kittanning area, police said.

So far this year, 13 people have died of overdoses in Westmoreland; five were attributed to heroin, Coroner Ken Bacha said.

In the Bramini case, police called paramedics, who revived him using Naloxone, better known by the brand name Narcan.

Dr. Heather Walker, an Excela Health System emergency department physician, said Narcan counteracts opioid or other narcotics in the body.

Normally the person responds quickly to treatment, she said. But in recent cases, doctors have needed to use more Narcan to revive overdose victims because of the “Theraflu” heroin being sold, Walker said.

“They are requiring much larger doses of Narcan to get any resuscitation response,” she said.

Typical signs of a heroin overdose are constricted pupils, difficulty waking, shallow or no breathing, she said. The person's lips may turn blue.

Dreveniak, Wigle and Bramini, who has been charged with both possessing a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia, will be sent notices of their charges by Greensburg District Judge James Albert's office.

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or bstiles@tribweb.com.

 

 
 


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