A British father who died during a trip to Disney World from a fentanyl overdose may have obtained the drug by mistake.
Officials believe Philip Weybourne, 40, likely did not intend to buy fentanyl and could have thought it was something else.
Mr Weybourne, director of an international IT company from West Malling in Kent, was holidaying in Florida with his wife and young son when he suddenly collapsed in May last year.
He’d been drinking alone in a bar at the resort prior to falling ill.
According to police and autopsy reports seen by The Times, Mr Weybourne had taken a taxi in which officers found a bag ‘that appeared to be packaged as an unknown type of illicit drug’.
Philip Weybourne died after ingesting a fatal amount of fentanyl while on holiday in Florida
The bag contained a powder substance which police believe Mr Weybourne may have acquired in the American Boulevard area of Orlando, Florida – not far from his resort.
An inquest held at Maidstone County Hall earlier revealed a blood test conducted after his death found fatal levels of fentanyl in his system – a powerful synthetic opioid similar to morphine which requires only two milligrams to prove potentially fatal.
The drug, which killed pop star Prince, is thought to have been responsible for the deaths of nearly one million people in the United States since 1999.
Fentanyl is 100 times more potent than morphine and started off as a cheap and potent alternative to heroin used by only the most hardcore drug addicts in the US, who mainly injected it or smoked it through a pipe.
The 40-year-old had been to the Boathouse restaurant in Orlando with his wife and young son for lunch on the day of his death, and left feeling well
Now, it is often used to lace virtually every other street drug, making an already dangerous practice of buying illicit substances infinitely more dangerous.
What is fentanyl and why is it so dangerous?
Fentanyl was originally developed in Belgium in the 1950s to aid cancer patients with their pain management.
Given its extreme potency it has become popular amongst recreational drug users.
Overdose deaths linked to synthetic opioids like fentanyl jumped from nearly 10,000 in 2015 to nearly 20,000 in 2016 – surpassing common opioid painkillers and heroin for the first time.
And drug overdoses killed more than 72,000 people in the US in 2017 – a record driven by fentanyl.
It is often added to heroin because it creates the same high as the drug, with the effects biologically identical. But it can be up to 50 times more potent than heroin, according to officials in the US.
In the US, fentanyl is classified as a schedule II drug – indicating it has some medical use but it has a strong potential to be abused and can create psychological and physical dependence.
Because it is cut into other popular drugs, many people who die of overdoses do not know they are taking fentanyl.
Dr Joshua Stephany, who performed the autopsy, determined there were no other illegal substances in Mr Weybourne’s system at the time of his death.
‘Like any unknown substance bought illicitly, you don’t know what you’re buying or taking,’ the publication reported him as writing in his findings.
Mr Weybourne’s death was officially ruled an accident.
According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration: ‘Fentanyl is the single deadliest drug threat our nation has ever encountered. No community is safe from this poison.’
In a statement read at the hearing, his wife Dorlyn Weybourne said: ‘On May 23, we woke up late and had no theme parks to attend on that day.
‘It was just going to be a relaxing day. We had the best lunch, we drunk champagne like we did when we lived in Dubai.
‘Afterwards we went on an amphibious car ride and to end our day we headed back to the hotel at about 5.30pm.’
Mrs Weybourne explained that her husband, the Middle East director of Excis Compliance Limited, wanted to continue drinking and went to the Yacht Club hotel at Epcot Resorts Boulevard alone.
Two hours later she heard a knock at her hotel room door and she was told that her husband had been taken in an ambulance to hospital.
Mrs Weybourne said: ‘I asked them if it was heat stroke or a heart attack.
‘When I got to the hospital I didn’t see my husband. I just remember the doctor telling me his time of death, 8:06pm.’
The doctors told Mrs Weybourne that her husband had died from a cardiac arrest. After the autopsy it was revealed that he had fatal levels of fentanyl in his system.
Assistant coroner Catherine Wood said: ‘He had no underlying health issues and I am content, after the findings of the autopsy, that his death was caused by fatal levels of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid used as a pain medication.’
The family returned to the hotel before Mr Weybourne went to the Yacht Club hotel (pictured) in Epcot for a drink, where he later collapsed