The body of a recent Santa Rosa High graduate was found in the surf off a Southern California beach where she was apparently attending a spring break party.
Giselle Esme Ayala, 18, a first year student at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, had traveled to the oceanside Isla Vista community for the weekend party, Santa Barbara County Sheriff's officials said.
Ayala and her friends joined between 15,000 and 18,000 people who flocked to the small community of mostly University of California Santa Barbara students for the party, called “Deltopia,” sheriff's spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said.
A jogger spotted Ayala's body in the surf at about 8:20 a.m. Saturday west of a small peninsula called Campus Point, Hoover said.
Authorities have not determined how Ayala died.
“It may be an accident, but we aren't ruling anything out until the investigation is complete,” Hoover said.
Ayala graduated in 2012 from Santa Rosa High's ArtQuest program where she focused on singing.
“Every day she had a smile on her face, she was totally enthusiastic,” said choir director Kira Bombace, who taught Ayala for all four years. “It was always a great day when you saw Giselle in class, and I know a lot of people felt that way.”
Ayala was a second soprano in choir who usually sat next to Emily Rozga, 19, who also went on to study at Cal Poly.
Rozga said that as news spread of Ayala's death, social networking sites were flooded with memories from Ayala's remarkably large group of high school friends.
“She just had a way of connecting with people,” Rozga said.
Ayala was majoring in sociology at Cal Poly, said Keith Humphry, vice president for student affairs.
“It's a very, very sad event when someone as bright and talented as she was passes,” Humphry said.
University officials informed the campus of her death through an email Sunday.