‘She was just pure sunshine’: Loved ones hold Riverside vigil for 20-year-old who overdosed after unknowingly taking fentanyl

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Loved ones held a candlelight vigil in Riverside Friday for 20-year-old Athena Zepeda, a week after the young woman overdosed at a party and later died.

“She was just pure sunshine,” her mother, Sharleena Antunez, said. “So much energy, so loving, so smart.”

On Nov. 5, the up-and-coming model and MMA fighter was with a group of friends at a home, when a known drug dealer arrived, according to her sister, Victoria Antunez.

“[The dealer] said ‘I have all these pills for sale. Let’s start some lines,'” Victoria Antunez said. “She breaks up the pill and Athena snorted a line and a few minutes later she got super out of it, unconscious.”

The pill that family says Athena thought was an M30, or Percocet, turned out to be fentanyl — a synthetic opioid more than 50 times more potent than morphine.

Athena’s friends didn’t call for an ambulance for at least 45 minutes, her family says.

“If someone ODs, you call the cops right away,” said Athena’s other sister, Genevieve Zettell. “It’s not something that you just try to wake them up and just to save your own self.”

Athena slipped into a coma at the hospital and died two days later.

Her family and about 100 others gathered in Shamel Park in Riverside for a candlelight vigil, leaving loving messages on Athena’s car and celebrating her short life.

“She was loved by many, many people. She was not a junky. She was not just a druggie,” Victoria Antunez said. “Fake pills are going around and people need to be aware what they take, even if you’re at a party and you get it from your friend. People are dying.”

Her family says they’re working with police to hold some of her friends accountable.

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