At least five women who attended a popular event Saturday at a Saco bar and restaurant believe they were drugged with a substance that caused them to rapidly black out or become violently ill, the bar’s manager said.

Police are investigating whether someone intentionally spiked drinks at a winter festival at Run of the Mill Public House and Brewery, after one of the women reported her experience to police, said Deputy Chief Jack Clements.

“It’s very serious,” Rebecca Lemieux, general manager for Run of the Mill, said Wednesday. “I’ve told everyone that messaged me to call the police or make a report so that they take it seriously.”

Lemieux said she’s heard from four women directly, and learned second-hand about a fifth woman from one of the others. A sixth woman’s father contacted Lemieux about what happened to his daughter.

Four of the women reported having only a couple of drinks before they completely blacked out and were later sick. Two said they remembered everything but became suddenly and unexpectedly ill.

Lemieux said she doubts the illness was food-borne. Although two women who got sick had ordered quesadillas, the restaurant served dozens of them that night and no one else reported problems.

Three of those who became sick said they remembered a woman who seemed out of place, including one victim who said she received a drink from the unknown woman before experiencing symptoms.

“Not to stereotype, but I think most of the time people are looking for men to do this, not women,” Lemieux said.

No one has been charged with any crimes and Lemieux said she is still scouring video from inside the restaurant to see if anything stands out.

One victim was Jill LaChance, 32, of Saco, who was the first to report the incident to Saco police, and also posted about it on Facebook.

Her account quickly circulated online and has been shared more than 1,000 times.

LaChance, a mother of two, said she, her husband and six friends met at the bar and got their first drink around 4 p.m. outside on the patio.

LaChance said she had one vodka-grapefruit juice and finished half of a second drink by about 5 p.m., when she and her friends began to move inside to hear a live band. It was around that time that LaChance said she believes she blacked out.

“It was only an hour,” LaChance said. “I had a drink and a half and it was a complete blank after that.”

The next thing she remembers was waking up in her bed feeling dehydrated and sick with no memory of how she got there or what happened to her that night. Even more bewildering was the fact that LaChance had planned to drive her friends home that evening and didn’t want to have much to drink.

But when she began to feel ill after 5 p.m., she told her husband. When her condition worsened, her husband suggested she get something to eat. The couple planned to stop at Rapid Ray’s, but LaChance became violently ill before they could order food. Her husband told her she then took off her shoes and stood barefoot in a snowbank vomiting for 20 minutes.

At that point, her husband decided to take her to a hospital, but before they could get there, LaChance vomited again. Eventually, her husband took her home.

LaChance said she had to be helped upstairs and into fresh clothes, and continued to get sick at her house.

“I was shaking uncontrollably,” she said. “They were getting ready to bring me to the hospital. I kept refusing.”

When she woke up, she was disoriented and doubted herself.

“I really thought at first that I was crazy,” she said. “My husband kept saying, ‘I think you were drugged.’ And I said, ‘no, that doesn’t happen.’ And both my mother and husband said ‘no, we saw the look in your eyes, this wasn’t you. You’ve never done this before.’ ”

There are a handful of drugs with legitimate pharmaceutical uses that have also been used maliciously to incapacitate people and are sometimes known as “date-rape” drugs. They include rohypnol, a depressant and muscle relaxant; ketamine, a short-acting general anesthetic; and GHB, which is used to treat narcolepsy in its pharmaceutical form.

Clements, the Saco police deputy chief, declined to say how many people had reported being sickened, citing the ongoing police investigation. But detecting such drugs is difficult, Clements said, because traces of the substances leave the body quickly, and hospitals need to know what they’re looking for to detect them.

Clements cautioned against jumping to any conclusions, and said the police investigation will bear out the facts.

“It’s our job to narrow (it) down and ask more questions and start doing a little more digging to make sure that what people think occurred is what occurred,” he said.

Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: MattByrnePPH

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