A University of Kentucky student studying abroad in the Middle East has been reported missing after a swimming accident over the weekend in Tel Aviv, Israel.
TeNiya Elnora Jones, 19, was swimming in the Mediterranean Sea just after midnight Saturday with two other students when they got caught up in a strong current, according to a news release from UK. Two of the students were able to make it back to the shore, but Jones did not.
Jones is from Ft. Myers, Fla., and a sophomore at UK majoring in biology and Islamic studies.
She traveled to the region as part of a study-abroad program focused on the Arabic language, according to UK. The program is based in Amman, Jordan, and Jones’ group is made up of seven UK students and two from West Virginia University.
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Four of the students in the study-abroad program had traveled by bus to Tel Aviv for the weekend, according to UK. One had stayed behind in a hotel when the swimming accident occurred.
After Jones was caught in the current, the other students contacted Israeli officials and a major search and rescue effort was launched. The search effort continues, according to UK.
The students also contacted UK police and the Council on International Exchange in Portland, Maine, which coordinated the program. UK has worked with the council for previous study-abroad programs.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with TeNiya, her family and the students and others impacted,” UK President Eli Capilouto said. “We are in continual contact with TeNiya’s family, officials in Israel, officials from the State Department and our Congressional delegation, to provide all the support we can for the family, students and others involved. We will do everything possible to provide whatever support is needed.”
Officials with the U.S. Embassy in Israel have been alerted and have been in communication with Jones’ family, the program coordinators and UK.
UK education abroad officials are working to send Jones’ mother and grandfather to Tel Aviv as the search continues, according to the university. Associate Provost Sue Roberts, who heads the International Center at UK is also traveling to Tel Aviv to meet with officials and the family.
The other students in Tel Aviv are safe and arrangements are being made for them to return to Amman “as soon as possible,” according to UK.
The university said the families of all of the students involved have been made aware of what happened.
John-Carlos Estrada, a reporter with WINK News in Florida, posted on Facebook Sunday that Jones is a graduate of Ft. Myers’ Dunbar High School.
The study-abroad program began in June and is scheduled to end this week.