Hayley Howard’s Death Stresses The Importance of Having A Plan In Place

Tonight the Orleans Parish coroner’s office says Hayley Howard drowned inside her car that was pulled from Irish Bayou on Wednesday. Toxicology results for the 19-year old will take weeks. Tonight WGNO News Anchor Vanessa Bolano looks back at similar accidents and whether a better plan needs to be in place.

Several unanswered questions surround the death of 19-year-old Hayley Howard. Questions like how she managed to veer off 1-10 and drive straight into Irish Bayou avoiding a barricade, a sign, and several trees. For days those closest to her assembled a search team hoping for the best.

Elizabeth Gelvin met Howard during their college years. The 20-years-old says, “You try to understand why, you know, just because it wasn’t like you find the news and you start mourning, it’s you find the news, you start working and working until either you have a reason to rejoice or a reason to mourn.”

Thursday afternoon the coroner’s office released autopsy results saying Hayley drowned. Toxicology reports are still pending.

Police call it an unfortunate accident, but unfortunately Hayley’s story is not a rare one. A year ago Terrilynn Monette made national headlines. She too drove into the water in the wee hours of the morning. The teacher was missing for months before her body was found inside her car in Bayou St. John.

In 2010, four Vandebilt Catholic students were killed when the truck they were in plunged into Bayou Blue near Houma. The group was driving home from Baton Rouge after a late LSU game.

“My husband and I heard the doorbell ring one morning and heard our news and I will never ever forget how my heart physically broke in half,” explains mother Charlsey Wolff.

Wolff knows the pain of losing a child. Her daughter, Vanessa, was killed in an accident in 2006. The Cabrini graduate was only 23. Wolff says it’s vital everyone have a plan in place before going out.

“Have somebody who is a designated driver, make sure that they take responsibility, take the keys away from the driver, always have an open door policy. If your kids are going out and you know they are make sure that they know it’s okay to call you; take a cab home, we will pay for it. Just make sure that they are okay because driving is a privilege. It truly is and it’s also, a car, a truck, is a killing machine,” says Wolff.

Tonight Hayley’s friends are just trying to cope. Their message: “If there’s anything to take from all of this I’d say it lets you really cherish your loved ones. I’ve definitely gone to everybody I really care about and just said, ‘Just remember I care about you, you mean a lot to me’ because you never know, you just never know,” says 21-year-old Daniel Lemonier.

Wolff is part of the New Orleans Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. She is organizing a 5K walk. “Walk Like MADD” is scheduled for Saturday, April 5th at LaSalle Park at 6600 Airline Drive in Metairie. To register early click here.