SAN RAFAEL, Calif. (KTVU) - A night with friends turned tragic for a mother of two, dead of a drug episode, which friends say was aberrant behavior for her.
42-year-old Carrie Cartier of Pt. Richmond was found unresponsive in a friend's San Rafael house about 4:30 Sunday morning.
Cartier and two other women had returned from a birthday party Saturday night, and impulsively snorted what they thought was cocaine.
It was not, and only two of them survived.
"She was so loving and so generous," said Cartier's best friend Kate Brakohiapa, showing KTVU a painting in her Pt. Richmond home, a gift from Cartier.
She had known the artist for a dozen years.
"She was the most amazing mother and loved her children more than anything," said Brakohiapa.
"They were everything to her, and she worked so hard."
Cartier's children are ages 3 and 9, a boy and girl.
Cartier was well known in Pt. Richmond, where she had lived for decades.
"It's beyond shocking to everyone here in town, unfathomable. We just don't know, why her?" said Brakohiapa tearfully.
San Rafael Police investigators say the women unwittingly ingested a powerful synthetic opioid.
"We see that a lot unfortunately, when it's someone that isn't familiar with drugs," said Sgt. Alex Holm, noting that the substance the women got was akin to fentanyl, and just as deadly, almost 8 times stronger than morphine.
"I think they truly believed it was cocaine," noted Holm.
Testing of the substance revealed it was U-47700, which goes by street names U-4 or euphoria, pink or pinky, because it sometimes has a pink hue.
This time it did not.
"The two people who survived told us they became very sleepy when using it, fell asleep and woke up after several hours and found the victim," said Sgt. Holm.
Their 911 call brought police and paramedics to a house on Mission Avenue near San Rafael High School.
But too much time had passed for Cartier to be revived, although they tried.
"This could happen to anyone, to the every-day user, or someone who uses for the first time. There's no way to predict what it is, or the effect it will have," warned Holm.
Friends say Cartier was loving and responsible and not much of a partier.
"She was so busy with the kids and work, she couldn't even get away to go down to the pub and have a beer," said Brakohiapa.
"It's just not who she was, it's just the most horrific accident."
An account has been set up at the "Supportful" site, raising money for the children's educational needs.
In just a few days, it topped $8,000.
"Which is now my concern and the whole community's concern," said Brakohiapa,"supporting those kids, giving them the love that Carrie can't give them anymore."
Friends plan a vigil in Pt. Richmond's central plaza, and will bring Cartier's art to a local coffee shop to honor her.
She was always generous with her talents.
"I took a picture of my daughter at a parade, and a few days later, she gave me a beautiful pencil drawing of it," recalled Brakohiapa," just left it in my mailbox."
The children are with their father, who told KTVU by phone that he is devastated and still seeking answers about what happened.
He describes Cartier as an incredible person, the love of his life, and no drug-abuser.
San Rafael police are still investigating the source of the pinky drug, but one of the women told them she got it from a friend, with the understanding it was cocaine.
The two survivors were hospitalized, but recovered, and were released the next day.