American College Exchange Student Drowns While Swimming in Israel

July 30, 2018 Last Updated: July 30, 2018

A college student from Florida on an exchange program in the Middle East died while swimming in Tel Aviv, family members said. Her body was found on July 30.

TeNiya Jones, 19, a student at the University of Kentucky, was on a seven-week trip to Jordan for an exchange program.

Jones and two friends decided to take a trip to Israel before returning to the United States and went swimming over the weekend.

Family members said she died drowning at a beach in Bat Yam, a suburb of Tel Aviv, after entering the water and getting caught in a rip current, school officials and family members said.

Tosha Thomas-Mora, Jones’ mother, told WINK that Jones was swimming with the two other exchange students when she vanished.

“Supposedly they went out for a midnight swim two roommates returned and said that a strong current came and swept them away but they swam back to shore and when they returned TeNiya was nowhere to be found,” she said.

“He remembered her yelling, screaming and he thought that she had swimmed behind them but I guess when they got to shore they realized that TeNiya wasn’t there so they went to get help.”

It took about 24 hours to find her body, reported the Times of Israel; her body washed up early on the morning of July 30.

Prior to learning the news, family members and friends said Jones was a fighter and believed she somehow made it out of the water. “She’d fight until the end until she couldn’t fight anymore,” Guy Thomas, the track coach at Dunbar High School, where Jones competed before graduating, told the Fort Myers News-Press.

Now, the family and friends are planning a vigil for Monday night.

Thomas-Mora will fly to Israel on July 31 to bring her daughter’s body home.

It’s the second child that she has lost recently. Her son, Sam Jones, was killed around seven months ago.

“Any mother that lose a child would understand how hard it was but to lose my second child, it’s so hard,” Thomas-Mora told WINK. “I try not to question God.”

Following news of the death, officials at the University of Kentucky offered condolences and memories.

“We pray that TeNiya’s family finds light in this darkness. We pray, too, for comfort and healing for our other students,” school president Eli Capilouto told WKYT.

DaMaris Hill, an assistant professor of English, remembered Jones as an avid student.

“She constantly exceeded any expectation placed in front of her. She is a leader among her peers and contributed greatly to the intellectual discussions in our course,” Hill said. “She was very insightful about the how cultural assumptions informed how we understood the world. Our class benefited greatly from her insights.”