SC mother seeks answers on her daughter’s New Orleans death

March 3, 2022 GMT

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A South Carolina mother has traveled to New Orleans hoping to learn more about the death of her daughter, a college senior who was dropped off at a hospital by an unidentified driver after she attended suburban Carnival parades.

Police have released few details about the death the morning of Feb. 19 of Ciaya Whetstone, a 21-year-old student at the University of New Orleans. The coroner’s office in New Orleans said Thursday it will be about six weeks before the investigation into the cause of her death is complete.

Whetstone’s friends told The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate last month that Whetstone had been to parades in Metairie the night before she died. She had then gone out with friends before returning home to check on her dog. She then left in an Uber, saying she wanted to look for her car, according to one friend’s account.

Whetstone’s mother, Miranda Ferrand, of Bamberg County, South Carolina, said the lack of information was frustrating. She spoke at a news conference with her husband, who is Whetstone’s stepfather, and her attorneys.

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“It has been nearly two weeks, and her mother has zero information,” said Atlanta attorney L. Chris Stewart, flanked by Louisiana state Rep. Royce Duplessis and state Rep. Justin Bamberg of South Carolina. “No information from the police. No information from the hospital about the cause of her death. No information from Uber about the background of this driver.”

“I brought her here to graduate, not to come pack her up to bury her,” Ferrand said, clutching a photo of her daughter.

An emailed statement from a spokesman for the Uber ride share service, in response to a query, said Uber has removed an unidentified driver’s access to its app as the investigation continues. Uber said its data showed that the Feb. 19 trip ended “without incident.”

“No parent should have to suffer the loss of a child, and our thoughts continue to be with Ciaya’s family,” the Uber statement said. “We understand the frustration of not having answers. We are seeking answers too, which is why we proactively reached out to law enforcement to offer assistance in their investigation as soon as we were made aware of Ciaya’s tragic death.”

Uber’s statement said it remains “ready and willing” to assist the law enforcement investigation, adding, “We have policies in place prohibiting post-trip contact and have removed the driver’s access to the app.”

In a later Associated Press interview, Ferrand said she learned of her daughter’s death after calling Whetstone’s phone that Saturday morning. A nurse answered. The nurse, and then a doctor, began asking questions about Whetstone.

“I said no, no, no ... Where’s my daughter? What’s going on? Is my daughter OK?” Ferrand said. “And she said, ‘Ma’am, your daughter came in this morning unresponsive and she is not OK.’” She said she dropped the phone in horror, leaving it to her brother to gather more information.

Later, Whetstone’s father was told that the young woman had died.