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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.

NEW ORLEANS, (WGNO) - Friends and family members of 19-year-old Hayley Howard are playing the waiting game after the missing teen’s body was recovered from inside her car pulled from a waterway Wednesday.

Orleans Parish Coroner’s Office said the official cause of death and toxicology report won’t be released for another 2-3 weeks as part of the ongoing investigation.

Wednesday, the discovering of Howard’s car stunned about hundred volunteers searching near Irish Bayou for some answers.  The University of New Orleans student had been missing for four days.

Howard was driving to Slidell from UNO early Saturday morning, when officials believe she veered off of Interstate-10 and into the waters of the Irish Bayou.

Police say earlier that night Howard was said to have had a flat tire.  According to Howard’s father some good Samaritans helped her fix it.

Authorities are still investigating her death as an accident, but hope to release more information later Thursday.  Officials say they will inspect Howard’s car.


Howard was from Slidell. She was studying pharmacy. Her parents say she was a loving and caring girl.

“Just seeing the good in people and almost a little naive, but not thinking the way some of us do, but that is very typical of her, just seeing the good in people and wanting to go thank them. She’s a very wonderful young lady,” said Hayley’s mother Cindy Howard.


19-Year-Old Hayley Howard’s Body Recovered

Family and friends of 19-year-old Hayley Howard are trying to figure out what went wrong. The UNO student was found dead inside her car in Irish Bayou Wednesday evening. WGNO News Anchor Vanessa Bolano has the latest.

Five days after disappearing authorities find 19-year-old Hayley Howard’s body. The UNO student was still inside her silver Toyota Corolla that was pulled out from Irish Bayou.

“We’re investigating it right now as a fatal accident. We’re incredible sorry for the loss to this wonderful family,” says NOPD Chief Ronal Serpas.

Howard’s body was found just one mile West of the Irish Bayou exit, not far from the exit sign.

“This is all preliminary, but it appears that she veered to the right off of the interstate system and rode on the grass until she hit the water. The original scene investigation is very consistent with that type of accident,” explains Chief Serpas.

Hayley Howard disappeared early Saturday morning. She was last seen dropping off a friend at UNO at around 2 a.m. Howard then spoke to her boyfriend to tell him she was heading to Slidell after some people had helped her change a flat tire. Hours later her phone pinged by Irish Bayou.

Howard’s father and mother were nearby at a command center when her body was recovered. We spoke to them before they got the devastating news.

“It’s been overwhelming but incredible, and we just want to thank everybody for anything that you have done; even if it was just a phone call or a text, “I’m thinking about you.” We really appreciate that and that’s giving us the strength to carry on,” says Hayley Howard’s mother Cindy Howard.

19-year-old Hayley Howard was from Slidell. She was studying pharmacy. Her parents say she was a loving and carrying girl.

“Just seeing the good in people and almost a little naive, but not thinking the way some of us do, but that is very typical of her, just seeing the good in people and wanting to go thank them. She’s a very wonderful young lady,” says Cindy Howard.

Authorities say they will inspect Howard’s car. The Orleans Parish Coroner’s office will conduct an autopsy to determine the exact cause of death.

Hayley HowardNEW ORLEANS (WGNO) – The search for a missing University of New Orleans student has come to a grave conclusion.  The body of 19-year-old Hayley Howard and her silver car were pulled from the edge of Lake Pontchatrain near Irish Bayou Wednesday.

New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Ronal Serpas told reporters at a press conference that his department believes Howard’s car veered off the roadway on a spot along Interstate 10 near the twin spans where there is no guard rails.

The investigation is still ongoing and a full toxicology report will be preformed.

Hayley’s father, James Howard, told media outlets this week that his daughter got a flat tire Friday night shortly after she left UNO.  She had told him then that some good Samaritans had helped her out.

She was to be heading toward Slidell, her hometown.

This morning search and rescue efforts centered around the Irish Bayou area where a cell tower last picked up Howard’s cellphone Saturday morning.

About 100 friends and family members braved the chill temperatures today hoping to find Howard’s car.

IRISH BAYOU (WGNO) - At 9:30 this morning, volunteers gathered in Slidell to plan the first foot search for missing 19-year-old Hayley Howard. The search took place in the Irish Bayou area because that is the last spot where her cell phone signal was picked up Saturday morning at 6 a.m.

Howard’s boyfriend was the last person to speak with her on the phone Saturday and she told him that some strangers had helped her fix a flat tire.

The Facebook page Help Find Hayley Howard has been created to help organize search efforts and spread the word about the missing teen.

Hayley Howard was driving a 2002 silver Toyota Corolla, she has a white iPhone 5 and had Mardi Gras costumes, a brown leather jacket and Physics text-book in her car.

NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) – The search for a missing 19-year-old girl gains traction today.  Volunteers were asked to help in a foot search in the Irish Bayou this morning.  They’re searching for Hayley Howard’s 2002 silver Corolla, her Mardi Gras costume and her iPhone.

Her iPhone is unique, according to the Facebook page “Help Find Hayley Howard.”  It’s a  white iPhone 5 with a cracked screen. The case is beige with a multi-colored elephant mosaic on the back cover.

Everyone who can help has been asked to meet at the old strip mall parking lot by the McDonald’s at 9:30 a.m. Hayley has been missing since early Saturday morning.

Hayley Howard

New Orleans Police are asking for your help locating 19-year-old Hayley Howard.

Howard was last seen driving away from the parking lot of 2000 Lakeshore Drive.  Her father, the reporting person has not seen or heard from her since.

Hayley Howard is described as a Caucasian female, about 5’3, and weighing about 105 lbs.  Hayley was last seen wearing a knee length black dress with white polka dots and black shoes with a small heal and a silver accent on the toe.

Vehicle: 2002, silver, Toyota, Corolla bearing Louisiana License plate number XBP 643.