NEW ORLEANS, March 6, 2014 — Earlier this afternoon, hearts were broken when 19-year-old Hayley Howard’s 2002 Toyota Carolla was hauled, water-logged, one mile from the Irish Bayou exit. The New Orleans Police Department diving team was on the scene at the time, along with agents of the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office. Her body was found inside of the vehicle and the authorities are operating a toxicology report to determine her alcohol content.
Howard had been missing since the morning of Saturday, March 1st, seen last by a friend around 1:50 A.M. in the University of New Orleans parking lot. She spoke with her boyfriend, Aaron Wyatt, on her cell phone a short while later to inform him of her flat tire and the group of “nice people” who helped her change it. NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas believes she may have been intoxicated and swerved off of Interstate 10 into the water on the outskirts of Lake Ponchatrain. The portion of road near the Twin Spans may not have had guard rails.
When the news of her absence went viral, the New Orleans and Slidell communities banded together to locate her as quickly as possible. The Facebook page, “Help Find Hayley Howard,” secured over twelve thousand likes from concerned individuals. It requested the public’s aid in demanding divers from local police headquarters and posting fliers in businesses of surrounding areas. Social media also helped in making the “Walking Search for Hayley’s Car and Phone” a success— two hundred and thirty five people joined the event online that occurred at 10:00 A.M. this morning. The hashtags, “#FindHayley” and “#BringHayleyHome,” grew popular on both Facebook and Twitter.
Additionally, HLN’s Nancy Grace highlighted the case on her show, interviewing Hayley’s father, James Howard. Bethany Lutheran Church, once a place of worship for the Howards, hosted a vigil for the missing girl last night, March 4th, at 7:00 P.M.
Now, friends and strangers mourn together, particularly online, in remembrance of Hayley. Many graduates of Northshore High School, her alma mater in Slidell, have set their Facebook profile pictures as her smiling face. Newsfeeds flood with statuses about the good times with Hayley, an avid dancer and intellectual. She was recently accepted into Xavier University’s pharmaceutical program.Those who did not have the privilege of knowing her post their condolences.
Without a shadow of a doubt, Hayley Howard left behind a bevy of people who adored her and she will be dearly missed.
The sympathies of Communities Digital News are extended to Ms. Howard’s family, friends and community devestated by this loss.