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Park City police on Tuesday were investigating the deaths of two 13-year-old boys, who were best friends, from Treasure Mountain Junior High School.
The eighth-graders were identified as Grant Seaver, who died Sunday, and Ryan Ainsworth, who died overnight Monday or Tuesday morning each at his respective home, according to Molly Miller, spokeswoman for Park City School District.
Police and school officials held a news conference Tuesday morning at which they discussed the deaths of the boys and a newly available and possibly lethal synthetic opioid known as "pink" or "pinky."
But Miller later told The Salt Lake Tribune that the death of the two boys and the drug were "two concurrent issues. No connection has been made at this point."
"We cannot responsibly make any connection at this point in the investigation," Miller wrote in an email. "The school district is worried that some of our students may possibly have access to the [legal] synthetic opiate U-47700. This drug is extremely dangerous, and we want parents to be alert and aware of how to look for it and what it is."
While the cause of death of the two boys is unknown, Miller said toxicology examinations have been requested for the teens, and "results from the medical examiner could take up to eight weeks. Police must wait for autopsy results, as well as drug screens, to responsibly verify any cause of death."
On Monday, Park City Police Department and the school district jointly issued a communitywide alert about the appearance of synthetic research drug U-47700, saying there had been two fatal overdoses in Utah in Salt Lake County and Iron County that had been attributed to the drug.
The alert said that, according to the Utah Statewide Information and Analysis Center, a division of the state Department of Public Safety, "The synthetic opioid … is growing in popularity with recreational drug users throughout the United States … [and] is readily available for purchase on the internet; primarily from Chinese suppliers."
"Because this drug is so new it is not yet illegal to purchase," police said in the alert. "At this point, it is known that the substance is extremely toxic, even in small doses. If you believe you have encountered the drug, contact your local law enforcement agency immediately and do not touch the substance with bare hands."
Carpenter said Tuesday afternoon that there were no obvious signs of trauma on either of the dead boys. He added that police have found no indication that either boy was taking pink.
"We haven't found this drug in our community," he said. "We haven't obtained or seized any."
After the first boy's death, Carpenter said, officers were going to social media websites and seeing numerous references to pink. Upon further investigation, police found that pink was mentioned by Park City School District students in text messages and on personal social media accounts, Carpenter said.
On Monday, the state issued its bulletin about the drug, which Park City Police Department posted on its Facebook page.
"We wanted to be proactive," Carpenter said.
Then, on Tuesday, police learned of the second boy's death.
"We are interviewing multiple students," the chief said, "and finding that there are a lot of people talking about this drug."
At a second news conference Tuesday, Park City School District Superintendent Ember Conley pleaded with parents to talk to students and look through their children's belongings for anything that could contain the drug. Pink could look like candy, could be wrapped in candy wrappers or could be powder concealed in eyedroppers or inhalers, Conley and Carpenter said.
Police on Tuesday went door to door, Carpenter said, to talk with guardians of students they think may be at risk.
On Wednesday, the school district plans to roll out an app called Safe Utah, said Sam Walsh, an intervention counselor at Park City High School.
The app will provide secondary-school students a way to send anonymous tips to school principals, Walsh said, and it will also give students access to a crisis line therapist "any time of the day."
The plan for the app has been in place for a month, Walsh said, but Wednesday is when students will receive instructions on how to download the software and create a login.
School will go back to normal Wednesday, Conley said, "but the grieving process is never normal." Her greatest worry Tuesday was "that we'll lose another child."
The boys have siblings in the school district, Carpenter confirmed.
One of the boys, Grant, was a skier on Team Park City United, who two seasons ago competed at the USASA National Championships halfpipe event in the 10-12 age group, according to a post on the team's Facebook page by the team's competitive freestyle skiing coach, Chris "Hatch" Haslock.
"Last season he skied with our Development Team to support and enjoy some of his friends that were not yet ready to move to one of our competitive teams," Haslock wrote."He was a kind, friendly young man who enjoyed life on and off of the hill. We will miss him dearly."