BY: MEREDITH DELISO, ABC NEWS
(BATON ROUGE, La.) — Authorities and volunteers are searching for a missing Louisiana State University student whose car was found abandoned on a Mississippi River bridge in Baton Rouge earlier this week.
Kori Gauthier, an 18-year-old freshman at LSU, was last seen Tuesday, her family said.
Officers found her car after midnight Thursday on the eastbound side of the Horace Wilkinson Bridge on Interstate 10 after someone crashed into it, police said. Her car was left unoccupied on the bridge, which is about 2 miles from the university campus, for at least an hour before the crash, Baton Rouge ABC affiliate WBRZ reported.
“At this time, based on evidence collected during the investigation thus far, law enforcement officials suspect that no criminal activity or foul play took place,” LSU said in a statement Saturday night.
Her father, Levar Gauthier, said they only found out Kori was missing when she didn’t show up to an orthodontist appointment or dance class on Wednesday. Her daughter’s former roommate used a tracking app on her phone to pinpoint Kori’s car sitting at a tow lot. He said police did not contact them before or after towing her car away even though the driver was nowhere to be found following the crash.
Her keys, phone and wallet were all found inside the car, according to her parents.
“A fool would’ve contacted somebody for additional help seeing a situation like that,” her father told ABC News about his daughter’s car being found empty after the crash. “I mean it’s to the point now I can’t be nice anymore. My daughter’s still out there somewhere and I was trying to be respectful before but I’m becoming very irate now.”
Search efforts have been underway in the days since her car was found, including local authorities, the United Cajun Navy and volunteers. A Baton Rouge Police Department dive team has been searching the Mississippi River, WBRZ reported.
“I’m angry, I’m in pain, but I appreciate everything people are doing,” Levar Gauthier said.
On Saturday evening, LSU said search efforts were continuing along the Mississippi River and a cadaver dog “alerted twice in the same area on the river,” but the depth of water — about 85 to 90 feet — and conditions made further search efforts in the area impossible.
The search effort was expected to resume in the area on Sunday with sonar equipment.
On Friday, over 300 people were involved in the search, according to the United Cajun Navy, which has been employing volunteers on foot, horseback, all-terrain vehicles, drones, boats and helicopters.
The search resumed early Saturday morning, as the community prayed for Kori Gauthier to be found safe.
Her father said he doesn’t believe his daughter died by suicide and said she loved college, was moving into a new apartment and was very close to her family.
“It is very far-fetched for me to think that for some reason my daughter just slammed on her brakes, walked out of her car and went off the side of a bridge. No, not believing that,” he told ABC News.
Those who knew Kori spoke of the joy she brought to her family and friends.
“She’s a fun-loving girl. Loves being a college student,” Levar Gauthier told WBRZ. “I hope and pray that she’s just somewhere injured, and just, it’s taking us a while to get to her, so she can live her dream and graduate from LSU and become a teacher and open her own dance studio.”
“If you find her, just bring her home so we can make that a reality,” he added.
The LSU Police Department is investigating Kori Gauthier’s disappearance.
“We want to assure the LSU community that the search for missing LSU student Kori Gauthier continues in cooperation with law enforcement officials and volunteers throughout the region,” the university tweeted Saturday. “LSU Police Department is in contact with Kori’s parents and keeping them updated and informed throughout, including sharing details that, out of respect for the family’s privacy and to protect the integrity of the investigation, are not being shared with the general public.”
Adania Daughtry, who was Kori’s roommate in the fall and helped find her car, was among the many out searching on Saturday.
“Kori was an angel. She kept me balanced. I was blessed to meet her, for her to be my roommate,” she told ABC News. “We didn’t know each other before the fall, but she was an amazing person.”
Spencer Gauthier is offering a $10,000 reward “to anyone that leads her home.”
Kori Gauthier is 5-foot-5, weighs between 115 and 120 pounds and has dark brown hair and brown eyes. Anyone with information is asked to contact LSU Police at 225-578-3231.
ABC News’ Elwyn Lopez, Nick Cirone, Nam Cho and Mark Osborne contributed to this report.
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