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UNO student died of fentanyl intoxication, coroner says

City health leaders say that more than 90 percent of drug-related deaths last year had Fentanyl present.

NEW ORLEANS — A UNO student who died after attending her first Mardi Gras parade and then allegedly heading out with the Uber driver who had taken her home succumbed to fentanyl and ethanol intoxication, the coroner’s office said.

Ciaya Whetstone was a 21-year-old student at the university and friends say she had gone to her first Mardi Gras parade on February 19 in Metairie and later went to a bar. The timeline following is unclear. Her friends know she took an Uber to her apartment in the middle of the night. Her roommate was already home when she arrived.

The roommate said the Uber driver came into the apartment with her and Whetstone indicated that she was going to change some of her clothes and then left again in the company of the driver.

Whetstone arrived at the New Orleans East Hospital in a private vehicle and was pronounced dead there. The NOPD did not confirm who drove her to the hospital.

Whetstone’s family had been pressing for answers.

"This coroner’s report simply confirmed what we already suspected: she died of an overdose and her Uber driver failed to take appropriate action," said a statement issued by the Whetstone family's legal team.

"They want to know what the Uber driver did as he witnessed a passenger dying, and why he never called 911 as he witnessed a medical emergency. Uber still has not released any information to the family, so we are forced to file our lawsuit.”

City leaders have said that fentanyl was present in more than 90 percent of the overdose death cases in 2021 and that it continues to be trending that way into 2022. 

“It takes a small amount of (fentanyl) to render someone incapacitated,” said Dr. Jennifer Avegno, Director of the New Orleans City Health Department. “Fentanyl is in everything. A preliminary analysis of our overdose deaths last year show that it is in at least 90 percent of those deaths.”

Avegno said that Fentanyl is used a lot in conjunction with other drugs because it is cheap and increases the profits "for those who would profit on the suffering and deaths of others."

"It's incredibly addictive, even more so than other opioids."

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