Man’s death attributed to fentanyl, alcohol intoxication

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald

By Jon Johnson

SAFFORD – The death of a man who was found deceased in a friend’s bathroom has been ruled accidental due to drug and alcohol use. 

Derek Dean Sanchez, 30, of Pima, was found unresponsive at a Safford residence on July 25. Upon arrival, other occupants of the home advised Sanchez had come by to use the bathroom and lost consciousness and couldn’t be awakened.

An autopsy was performed by the Pima County Office of Medical Examiner. A toxicology report came back positive for ethanol at .260 nanograms per milliliter of blood (ng/mL), and a fentanyl level of 3.5 ng/mL. Fentanyl is an opioid analgesic roughly 50 times more potent than heroin. The toxicology report also indicated a positive result for methamphetamine. 

“In consideration of the known circumstances surrounding this death, the available medical history, and the examination of the remains, the cause of death is intoxication by the combined effects of ethanol and fentanyl,” the autopsy report states. “The manner of death is accident.”   

Occupants at the residence performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on Sanchez, which was continued by law enforcement and medical personnel to no avail. 

During the investigation, occupants advised they realized Sanchez was intoxicated but weren’t aware of any drug use. However, another occupant advised there were some blue fentanyl pills in the house and nine pills and a pill cutter were seized. 

Sanchez had a history of drug and alcohol abuse and had multiple active cases against him regarding aggravated DUI charges and possession of a narcotic drug.    

Those seeking assistance with substance abuse can find help locally at places such as Canyonlands Healthcare Safford and the Awakening Recovery Center or Community Medical Services Safford – (928) 985-2700.