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Mother of UNO student who died after Uber ride demanding answers
NEW ORLEANS - Nearly two weeks after UNO student Ciaya Whetstone died at a hospital under unknown circumstances, her mother Miranda Ferrand still hasn't gotten the answers she needs.
WWL-TV reports that Whetstone was taken to New Orleans East Hospital by an unknown individual before 7 a.m. on Feb. 18. She was later pronounced dead, according to police.
Investigators with the New Orleans Police Department are still investigating the incident as an unclassified death.
Whetstone's friends say she left home with an Uber driver shortly after arriving, around 1 a.m. Feb. 18.
"No information from the police. No information from the hospital about the cause of the death of her daughter. No information from Uber on the background of this driver, his route," said Atlanta-based attorney L. Chris Stewart. "For two weeks, they've had to suffer. They don't know if she was sexually assaulted. They don't know if she was drugged. They don't know anything."
That's why attorneys are now getting involved, Stewart says.
After their press conference about the situation, the New Orleans Police Department released a statement to say they are investigating the "unclassified death" and that they have been cooperating and communicating with Whetstone's biological father.
Police say they will now do the same with her mother, WWL-TV reports.
"After receiving contact information today for the victim's biological mother, detectives will be meeting with her today to discuss the status of the investigation," the statement reads.
The statement also says that no cause of death has been identified by the coroner's office.
Anyone with additional information that could help with the investigation should call detectives at 504-658-6070 or Crime Stoppers of Greater New Orleans at 504-822-1111.
Surrounded by a team of attorneys, Ferrand told reporters she was speaking on behalf of her daughter in her Thursday morning plea for answers.
"She's been with me since I was 18 years old. She is my best friend," Ferrand said stifling tears near UNO's campus. "I brought her here to graduate— not to pack her up, to bury her. I am asking anyone that knows anything about what happened to my daughter to please come forward. I am not going to stop until I figure out what happened to my daughter."
Ferrand says she got more information about what happened to her daughter from online news than from the police, Uber, or the hospital.
South Carolina State Representative Justin Bamberg, who is also an attorney, came to New Orleans to stand by Whetson's mother during the press conference, according to WWL-TV.
"They deserve answers. No one is accusing anyone of anything, but we need to know what happened," Bamberg said.
Bamberg said Whetstone's Uber driver was overheard asking her, "Do you like to party?"
"(Ridesharing) is not a way to meet people. This is not a way to find friends. This is not a way to have conversations with our inebriated young women, and then go off around the city with them," Bamberg said. "We need to look at policies here. It serves a lot of great purposes."
Bamberg suggested that if rideshare drivers were mandated to have a camera in their vehicles, answers would be more readily available.
"We'd be able to pull the video and see what was talked about," Bamberg said. "Uber is big — Lyft is big, but no one is bigger than the law. People like us to make the law."
Louisiana State Representative Royce Duplessis for District 39 also spoke at the conference.
"We can't point any blame at this time because we don't know what happened," the Louisiana state representative said. "What we do know is what should and should not happen."
A rideshare driver shouldn't be their passenger's tour guide, Duplessis said. Rideshare drivers don't get a green light to build a personal relationship with their passengers as soon as the ride ends.
"If you played no role in this then disclose that information to us, or you'll see a lawsuit by next week," Duplessis said. "Because that seems to be the only way to get an answer from Uber. Because we trust putting our loved ones in your vehicles every day."
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