Body of missing UK student found after drowning in Israel


Thomas Novelly


Louisville Courier Journal

Published 10:28 p.m. UTC Jul 30, 2018

The body of a University of Kentucky student was found Monday near the Mediterranean Sea in Israel after she went missing during a late-night swim, according to the nation’s media outlets.  

TeNiya Jones, 19, of Fort Myers, Florida, was in Tel Aviv for the weekend while on a seven-week exchange trip in Jordan. On Saturday evening, she disappeared while swimming near the beach in Tel Aviv. 

Family members told the News-Press that she drowned.

Background: A UK sophomore disappears while swimming at Tel Aviv beach in Israel

She had disappeared near the suburb of Bat Yam after entering the water with two friends and getting caught in a rip current, according to the Times of Israel. 

Jones’ mother, Tosha Thomas-Mora, said she last texted her daughter at 3:30 p.m Saturday. In Israel it was 10:30 p.m. and her daughter told her she was “in for the night.”

Less than eight hours later, she was notified that her daughter was missing by the study abroad program and the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. 

Two of the students made it out and rushed to call authorities, according to a press release from the University of Kentucky. 

Those friends were a 20-year-old woman from Washington, D.C., who also attends UK and a 21-year-old man from Illinois who attends West Virginia University, family members told the News-Press. 

Related: Fort Myers community prays for missing college student TeNiya Jones

Thomas-Mora said her daughter knows how to swim. 

“She’s a decent swimmer,” Thomas-Mora told the News-Press. “The furthest I’ve known her to go is to stand and wade at the shore of the water and take pictures.”

Jones was studying biology and Islamic studies at UK, her mom said. She traveled to Amman in June and was supposed to return to the U.S. next week.

“We have been in constant contact with TeNiya’s family throughout the last 48 hours; and we are working to put them in route to Tel Aviv as soon as possible so they can make whatever decisions are necessary,” UK President Eli Capilouto said in a statement. “One of our dedicated staff members will be in Israel to assist the family in the days ahead.
 
“We also are in regular contact with our other students who remain in the Middle East as part of this study abroad experience. They are safe; and we are providing resources as they try to come to terms with what they are experiencing.
 
“We pray that TeNiya’s family finds light in this darkness. We pray, too, for comfort and healing for our other students.”

The News-Press reports that Thomas-Mora is making arrangements to travel to Tel Aviv this week. Her son, Samuel Jones Jr., 22, was shot and killed in a double homicide in December. She has another daughter, 3-year-old Naomi Ruth Mora.

The News-Press contributed reporting. Thomas Novelly: tnovelly@courierjournal.com, 502-582-4465. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/tomn.

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