SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — 46 people have died from overdose, mostly fentanyl poisoning, in the Sioux Falls area from January of 2021 through May of this year.

29-year-old Alex Koller was among them, but Alex is much more than a statistic. He was an athlete, a talented musician and had a winning personality. His parents are sharing the story of his tragic death in order to raise awareness about the prevalence and danger of fentanyl.

“He played by ear and you can’t believe some of the stuff he’d come up with. He loved music,” Tom Koller said.

“He was sweet. He was our boy that always checked in on us, constantly.” Anita “Petey” Koller said.

Alex Koller’s parents want him to be remembered for more than his addiction.

Tom and Petey Koller’s youngest son, Alex, died of fentanyl poisoning in April of this year

Tom and Anita, who goes by “Petey,” lost their 29-year-old son in April to fentanyl poisoning. The couple was on vacation in Florida at the time.

“And we got the phone call there. And it makes me so sad that he was by himself when he died. Addiction is just so ugly,” Anita said.

Alex had been through treatment a couple of times and had served two stints in prison for drugs. His parents say it was a 12-year roller coaster ride that started when he was 17.

“When he was down and out, didn’t have any money–as a parent, you don’t want to make him homeless, but you give too much and you feel like an enabler. It’s just a hard, hard road,” Anita said.

Tom, Petey, Alex & oldest son, Eric Koller

Before his death, they had put Alex up in a motel for 10 days so they could take their trip knowing he had a place to stay. Alex bought pills, that his parents later learned were from Mexico, which contained the deadly synthetic opioid, fentanyl.

“It was pills and we know he got 12 and there were still 10 left. He did not want to die. The detectives made that very clear,” Anita said.

The Kollers are speaking out about their son’s fentanyl poisoning death because they know how common it has become.

“It’s poison. I think we’ve got to do something about it. There are so many people dying,” Tom said.

Alex had lost friends to overdose and had called fentanyl “evil.” Yet, he didn’t have fentanyl testing strips, which would have told him the pills he bought were laced.

“If it saves one person, it’s a great deal. But I could see how it would probably save a lot of them,” Tom said.

Fentanyl testing strips

Fentanyl testing strips are cheap and easy to use. However, as our KELOLAND News Investigation discovered, it’s actually illegal to have them in South Dakota. We will take a look at the law and the effort underway to change that Wednesday night on KELOLAND News at 10.

The Kollers say they’ve had tremendous support from their small community in Parker. The DCI is assisting the Sioux Falls Police Department with the investigation and the investigation into Alex’s death, but no one has been arrested.