BANGOR, Maine — The state medical examiner’s office has determined that a man who took bath salts and died at Eastern Maine Medical Center last July overdosed on the synthetic street drug.
Ralph E. Willis, 32, had consumed “a toxic level” of methylenedioxypyrovalerone, or MDPV, a key ingredient of bath salts, Mark Belserene, administrator of the medical examiner’s office, said Wednesday.
It’s the “first confirmed case” in Maine of a death associated with bath salts, Belserene said.
A t least three people in the Bangor area have died as a result of using bath salts, Dr. Jonnathan Busko, an EMMC emergency room doctor, said in mid-December.
Willis was delusional when he was found running around and yelling at people on Center Street on July 22, Bangor police Sgt. Paul Edwards said at the time.
“He said he was on [bath salts] and needed to get off them,” the sergeant said.
Willis was charged with disorderly conduct, criminal mischief and refusing to submit to arrest. He was taken to jail but didn’t stay long, Troy Morton, chief deputy of the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office, said at the time.
“He was acting paranoid and delusional when he was interacting with staff and was yelling at staffers,” Morton said. Intake officers felt Willis should be evaluated at a local hospital and called Bangor police to transport him to EMMC.
Bangor police called for assistance from a Bangor Fire Department ambulance crew, which took Willis to the medical center just after 8 p.m., Edwards said. Willis died at the hospital at around 9:40 p.m.
Willis was so intoxicated by the bath salts he had taken that he stopped breathing at the jail but was resuscitated before being taken to the hospital, Morton said Wednesday.
Busko, who did not identify any of the three people who died under the influence of bath salts, did say that the person who was transferred from the jail and died at the hospital was in a state of excited delirium caused by the man-made stimulants he consumed.
Shortly after Willis’ death, the jail changed its intake policies, Morton said last month.
“We had to make changes,” he said. “It has not changed drastically because of bath salts, but we’re going to take a closer look, and a medical assessment is done.”
Police in the Bangor area now have test kits to determine whether a substance is bath salts but still need a quick urine test to check if a person has the drug in his system, the deputy chief said.
“People do crazy stuff on this and it really concerns me,” Belserene said.