A woman in her 50s died and three police officers were hospitalized after they were exposed to an unknown chemical substance emanating from her car in Palo Alto on Friday, May 5, a police spokesperson said.
A passerby called 911 and reported a woman was on the ground and in medical distress at the Shell gas station, located at 3601 El Camino Real, on Friday at 7:59 p.m., police Lt. Con Maloney said Monday, May 8. Arriving officers began emergency medical treatment and the woman was transported to a hospital by ambulance.
Her white Acura SUV contained several bottles of an unknown substance. A strong chemical odor emanated from the vehicle, Maloney said. Three police officers who were exposed to the strong chemical smell were also taken to the hospital.
"Our officers are all fine now and were released from the hospital later Friday evening. The woman unfortunately died at the hospital," Maloney said.
Police don't currently know the woman's city of residence. The case remains under investigation. Police haven't yet identified the chemical substance. The Santa Clara County Medical Examiner-Coroner's Office identified the woman on May 22 as Erica McJimpsey, 51, who was without an address. A cause of death was still pending.
"Members of our department are working with experts to determine what the chemical substances are," he said.
Police don't consider the incident was a crime; it is possible the death was either a suicide or accidental. There is no indication the substance was an illegal street drug such as fentanyl, he said.
Palo Alto Deputy Fire Chief Kevin McNally said a hazardous materials team from Mountain View Fire Department cleared the incident and the SUV was towed away by police.
Help is available
Any person who is feeling depressed, troubled or suicidal can call 988, the mental health crisis hotline, to speak with a crisis counselor. In Santa Clara County, interpretation is available in 200 languages. Spanish speakers can also call 888-628-9454.
People can reach trained counselors at Crisis Text Line by texting RENEW to 741741.
Read more: How to help those in crisis