Journal article Open Access

Analysis of Clothing and Urine from Moscow Theatre Siege Casualties Reveals Carfentanil and Remifentanil Use

Riches, James R.; Read, Robert W.; Black, Robin M.; Cooper, Nicholas J.; Timperley, Christopher M.

On October 26, 2002, Russian Special Forces deployed a chemical aerosol against Chechen terrorists to rescue hostages in the Dubrovka theatre. Its use confirmed Russian military interest in chemicals with effects on personnel and caused 125 deaths through a combination of the aerosol and inadequate medical care. This study provides evidence from liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry analysis of extracts of clothing from two British survivors, and urine from a third survivor, that the aerosol comprised a mixture of two anaesthetics—carfentanil and remifentanil—whose relative proportions this study was unable to identify. Carfentanil and remifentanil were found on a shirt sample and a metabolite called norcarfentanil was found in a urine sample. This metabolite probably originated from carfentanil.

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