COVINGTON, La. — A day of jet skiing with her boyfriend on the Tchefuncte River ended in tragedy for 26-year-old Laura Thomas.
Friends reported her missing last Friday night when she didn’t return to the Three Rivers Boat Launch in Covington.
Her brother Alexander Thomas described what happened.
“It was getting late,” he said. “Her boyfriend went to go get the trailers for the skis and as he was backing them up into the water, I guess it got too dark and she blew past the boat launch.”
Alexander said Laura spent a cold and stormy night floating in the river.
“She had some damage to her chin and some big lacerations, some cuts and scrapes on her chest. So, we believe she hit the tree and was immediately knocked unconscious, so she didn’t experience any pain.”
A Good Samaritan found Laura, Saturday morning floating in the water, 14 hours after she disappeared.
Her body temperature was 77 degrees when rescuers pulled her out of the river.
The Thomas family credits a 12-year-old-girl for locating Laura. Isla Barrios and her family live along the river.
“That little girl is the reason they found her,” Alexander said. “Laura was seen by the little girl.”
The little girl told her father which direction to go in the river to look for Thomas.
"He was getting ready to go this way, but she told them no daddy, no daddy I seen her that way,” Alexander Thomas said. “Within 20 minutes they found the ski and her.”
Laura Thomas died on Wednesday.
“Her smile just brightened up the room,” Laura’s sister-in-law Taylor Thomas said. “She was so beautiful.”
Laura loved her family, her job as a dental assistant and being outdoors Taylor added.
“She was such a sweetheart. She had two dogs that she absolutely loved. She has a niece that she was crazy about, loved seeing, loved spending time with. She loved her family. She loved spending time with all of us.”
Laura’s family members want to thank the Northshore community for an outpouring of support during this difficult time.
“We wake up every morning and we have messages and comments and texts and calls just people reaching out telling us how sorry they are and offering their support,” Taylor Thomas said.
Alexander Thomas now hopes his sister’s death will be a lesson for others who venture out on the water.
“For me it’s important to talk on the safety of it because if they had practiced better safety then maybe I’d still have my sister.”
The family draws comfort in knowing so many people cared about Laura.
That was evidenced by the small army of friends who showed up on the Tchefuncta last weekend to search for her.
The family also wanted to thank the St. Tammany Sheriff’s Office, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the Cajun Navy for also joining in the search for Laura.