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The opioid overdose epidemic has swept the nation, and Humboldt County is caught in the trap from every angle. So we’ve got to be overdose-aware if people are going to survive.

It’s International Overdose Awareness Day, and in this LoCO Video Report we give you a local account of any ordinary man intervening in the midst of a chaotic situation to help save someone’s life from an opioid overdose.

Vista Del Mar — formerly the Bar Fly — is a restaurant/bar located on Commercial Street in Eureka right off of beautiful Humboldt Bay. The place has its regulars and is a pretty popular spot for locals. But just on the other side of the business’s back fence, people are having a party of their own.

“We’re like the forgotten cousin out here,” said manager Gabriel DeMartini. “Constantly having to call police for people loitering, sitting behind our building, defecating, urinating, shooting up drugs and asking customers for cigarettes.”

It’s a daily battle for DeMartini, who took on the position when the bar came under new management in December. He says they’ve bent over backwards trying to revitalize the place, but the situation outside is just completely out of hand.

We went to film the area to the back right of the building where the issues are occurring, and there was a minimum of 10 people hanging out on a small patch of grass under a tree. One man quickly approached us to say we couldn’t film that direction, and of course we kindly replied that they could move.

I asked DeMartini how people think they can tell him what to do in the parking lot of his own business.  

He says, “I don’t know. And I don’t know where they get the balls, honestly.”

DeMartini added that he just wants the customers to feel safe. But that he personally can’t do anything because the city of Eureka owns the parking lot and it’s a “public space.”

“They asked us to pay for all the parking that we wanted to buy for our customers, but it’s an outrageous amount of money,” he said. “So I don’t think it’s necessary for me to buy space to tell people they can’t be here.”

DeMartini truly started realizing the severity of the problem after just a couple of months in business. He said one of the side lots was filled with crab pots and homeless had basically turned it “into an apartment building.”

“Then one of our bartenders was informed by a customer that there was a man in a tarp who hadn’t moved in a while that was in that parking lot. She went and investigated and he was face down on the pavement with a needle in his arm,” DeMartini said.

And if that’s wasn’t enough — another shocking moment in the back parking lot, early one morning. DeMartini was conversing with an employee from Pacific Seafoods next door when they witnessed two people attempting to dump a body out of the back of a truck.

DeMartini says he walked over to check things out and a woman insisted that the man (who was at that point, being dragged across parking lot) was “breathing” and “fine.”

But DeMartini knew there was a serious situation unfolding right before his eyes. So while calling 911, he went closer to the scene, that’s when the driver of the vehicle became hostile. DeMartini got a little agitated but managed to stay focused on approaching the lifeless half naked man lying on the pavement. Then dispatch answered and DeMartini acted fast.

DeMartini says he immediately started doing chest compressions on the man, but after 30 pumps, every ounce of breath came out. The man was blue and they thought he was dead.

“I’m bare hands on his bare chest and couldn’t hear or feel him breathing,” DeMartini said.

But he kept on with the compressions until EMS arrived. He says they administered naloxone, the opioid reversal drug, and the man seemingly ‘came back to life.’

So despite the constant issues outside, a potentially dangerous situation, and when DeMartini could have turned and looked the other way, he didn’t.

“I don’t want anybody to die, it could be a son or a father of someone,” he said. “Not on my clock. And I don’t want that to be a reputation that we’re watching people die, literally in front of us.”

DeMartini used his common sense, immediately called 911, and started helping the man in every way he could. That’s being overdose-aware!

DeMartini said he would do it all again if he had to, but he hopes that something will change before it ever does happen again.

“We’re just trying to run a local business. We’re compassionate to people who need help but majority of the people around here aren’t looking for help. They’re just looking for another way to get through the day and another fix,” he said. “So it’s just really disheartening, but if there’s any other ways or resources to fix this, I’m all ears.”