BOSTON (CBS) – The woman at the center of Tuesday’s cyanide scare killed herself with the poison, but did so while preventing serious injury to anyone else, according to firefighters.

Fred Ellis, Jr. and Kenneth Jones are experienced members of the Boston Fire Department’s hazardous materials team. The two responded to Tuesday’s call about a cyanide suicide.

They found two bottles of the deadly chemical in the Brighton apartment. The bottles were sealed so the poison would not hurt anybody else.

WBZ-TV’s Jim Armstrong reports.

“The person who utilized it, she knew what she was doing, and she definitely didn’t want no one else to get hurt, so she capped everything, bagged it and left it at a safe distance in the place,” said Ellis, Jr.

The woman was a 72-year-old doctor who worked as a researcher at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Authorities believe she may have had access to the deadly chemical at her job.

One of the bottles was small and filled with pure potassium cyanide. The larger bottle was full of a diluted mixture of the poison.

A statement Wednesday afternoon from Dana Farber said only that the facility was “notified by Boston Police Department yesterday afternoon about the death of a staff member. She’s been a valued member of our research community from more than 20 years and we are deeply saddened by this loss. We are working closely with the Boston Police to learn more about the circumstances of her death. We are reviewing our procedures and the circumstances surrounding this incident.”

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Bernice Corpuz reports.

Those familiar with research labs say the use of cyanide is common, even vital, to the work they do.

“It’s used as a basis to mix with other chemicals to make different compounds… that can hopefully lead to different drugs or cures for potential diseases,” explained Ted Dubiel, an operations technical manager for Somerville-based Triumvirate Environmental Services.

Jones said the woman also left a suicide note warning people to be careful.

“The note was written in Russian, so her sister came in and read it, but she did say it said don’t touch nothin, cyanide, and the whole nine yards,” said Jones.

See: Cyanide Info From CDC

Both men went into the Lake Shore Road address with protective clothing. Several other first responders were not wearing extra gear and went to the hospital as a precaution.

Firefighters said these types of deaths are increasing.

“There does seem to be a rise in chemical suicides nationwide, and I know we’ve had a couple in this area recently. I’m not sure why exactly,” said Michael Ruggere of the Boston Fire Department.

More than a dozen people, including the woman’s husband, were taken to the hospital on Tuesday as a precaution. No one showed any signs of chemical exposure, and the cyanide was contained to the single apartment.

Triumvirate Environmental Services had the nine-hour job of decontaminating the emergency room at St. Elizabeth’s hospital, where the woman and first responders were taken.

WBZ-TV’s Jim Armstrong contributed to this report.


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