BUCKEYE, AZ — It is the deadliest drug in the country and it is hitting our neighborhoods and school communities hard. Over the next three days, ABC15 Arizona is covering a series of stories that show how Fentanyl is impacting families, law enforcement, and treatment centers throughout Arizona.
We begin our series at the home of Melissa and Daryl McKinsey, who lost their son Bryan McKinsey, a high school junior and star baseball player at Verrado High School in Buckeye.
Home videos show a young and exuberant Bryan riling up crowds as he led his team to win after win.
His mother, Melissa, said Bryan was on his way to play for a university in Missouri before his death.
"Life was just beginning. It was just beginning. He really had the world at his feet," Melissa McKinsey said.
His parents said they had never even heard of the drug Fentanyl before they saw it as the cause of death on a medical examiner's report.
"We really don't know how they got it," Melissa said.
What this family was sure about though, was the fact that their son was not a drug addict.
The McKinseys said Bryan may have had some anxiety around the time of his death due to state playoffs and final exams taking place. They can now only wonder if someone may have given their son something to calm his nerves -- something obviously laced with Fentanyl.
They told ABC15 about the last time they saw Bryan. "He came in, like any other night and said, 'Good night, I love you,'" his mother said.
Daryl McKinsey said he stayed up late but did not hear anything that caught his attention. He thought his son had gone to sleep. The next day, Melissa got a text message from Bryan's friend asking where he was because he had not shown up for school.
McKinsey left work to go check on Bryan, thinking he may have overslept. He admitted feeling annoyed when he walked in the front door.
"I came in the door and I pushed it open and I'm like 'Get up.' I was yelling. I thought maybe he was pretending he couldn't hear me. I saw him on his bed in a sitting position. He had somewhat of a smile on his face, so I thought he was being goofy. I told him 'I know you can hear me, get up.' Then I just reached down and I touched his leg. It was ice cold," Daryl said as he broke down in tears.
"I absolutely knew then," he added.
After finding out a Fentanyl overdose killed their child, the McKinseys looked up the drug. They learned it was a drug so deadly, even an amount the size of a tiny grain of sand was enough to lead to an overdose or kill a person.
"The last thing I want is for Bryan to be the face of Fentanyl because it was one second in his life. One bad choice. He was so much more than that choice," Melissa said.
"This is not a fraternity anybody wants to be in, and we are not alone. But damn, it feels like you're alone," Daryl said.
Agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration say Fentanyl is a drug that is one hundred times stronger than Morphine.
The number of total drug overdoses jumped 54 percent each year between 2011 and 2016.
In 2016, there were 63,632 drug overdose deaths. The report analyzed death certificates for drug overdose deaths between 2011 and 2016 and found Fentanyl was involved in nearly 29 percent of all overdose deaths in 2016.
In 2011, Fentanyl was involved in just 4 percent of all drug fatalities. At the time, Oxycodone was the most commonly involved drug, representing 13 percent of all fatal drug overdoses.