A recent traffic stop in Nashville, Tenn., led authorities to an empty fire extinguisher with more than $1 million in heroin smuggled inside.

Drug interdiction officer Joe Simonik, with the Major Case Task Force in Nashville, stopped a vehicle with two passengers on Interstate 40 near the exit for Charlotte Pike Wednesday. Simoniks K-9, named Boston, detected the scent of drugs coming from the trunk, where the officer found a fire extinguisher inside the bag of passenger Roberto Hernandez, 25, reported WSMV.

Police dismantled the fire extinguisher after noticing it had been tampered with, discovering a massive package of heroin weighing roughly 16.8 pounds. Officials with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Major Case Task Force and Drug Enforcement Administration are investigating the incident.

Simonik is being held on $250,000 bond and faces a charge of possession of heroin for resale. He told authorities that an unidentified person from Arkansas gave him the drug shipment and promised him a job if he took it to Nashville.

Drug overdoses, fueled by fentanyl and heroin, are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50, killing more than 64,000 people in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The increase is driven primarily by opioids, which claimed 42,249 lives in 2016 — a 28 percent increase over the roughly 33,000 lives lost to opioids in 2015. Opioid overdose made up a staggering 66 percent of all drug overdose deaths in 2016, surpassing the annual number of lives lost to breast cancer.

Deaths from synthetic opioids like fentanyl, a painkiller roughly 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, experienced a particularly dramatic increase, more than doubling from 9,580 lives in 2015 to 19,413 lives in 2016.

The epidemic is contributing to declining life expectancy in the U.S., officials say. Life expectancy dropped for the second consecutive year in 2016 for the first time since an outbreak of influenza in 1962 and 1963.

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