BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Destiny Love Ayala was a volleyball player — and a good one too. In fact, they called her Beast.  Yes, Beast. A funny nickname when you think about it because she looked more like that other main character in the popular Disney fairy tale.

Beauty? Beast? More than anything, Destiny was simply human — an 18-year-old girl, trusting. Too trusting, it turned out. The day after her graduation from East Bakersfield High School, she went to a party. What happened next isn’t clear, except for this part — Destiny Ayala died that night — June 17.

 The coroner said she had fentanyl in her system — fentanyl, the illicit synthetic opioid that’s killing people with ruthless efficiency — at least 200 in Kern County since January 2020, 80 of them just this year. Last year, across the U.S. a staggering 80,000. 

How did she ingest fentanyl? Was the marijuana cigarette she took a puff from laced with fentanyl? Or did she take a pill, thinking it was something like Percocet, a pharmaceutical painkiller? 

We may never know — but that uncertainty underscores the fact that fentanyl is turning up in virtually every street drug, from counterfeit oxycodone to cocaine, from crystal meth to marijuana. And the user may never know it.

Destiny had an infectious smile and a contagious style of play on the volleyball court. She planned to play this fall at West Hills Community College in Coalinga and study political science. Instead, she herself is the lesson — one her mother Tan Ayala is determined to share with the world.

Tan Ayala, Destiny’s mother, learned about fentanyl the hard way. The hardest way possible.

“It could be in anything now,” Tan Ayala said. “It could happen to anybody. As I’m still learning, it’s happening to everyone — adults, kids younger than Destiny.”

Jasmine Dawsey, Destiny’s junior varsity volleyball coach at East High, says Destiny could take over a room with her vivacious personality.

“She had this crazy energy that you could feel in the entire room,” Dawsey said. “She had a smile that you could see through the entire gym. It’s saying a lot that you can hear her and see her and feel her often over the crowd. I remember telling her that her spirit was big and that she needed to foster that. She needed to be that. “

Yes, Destiny Ayala’s spirit was big. She showed it on the volleyball court, in her poetry, in her smile, in her sheer being.

But fentanyl takes none of that in account. It treats the meek and bold with equal disdain, leaving families like those of Destiny Ayala with a huge hole. Their admonition, delivered with an authority they neither wanted nor asked for: Don’t let this happen to your family.