WEBSTER GROVES, Mo. (KMOV.com) - It was sometime in August 2018 at a concert where Mary Clarke first noticed a then 14-year-old Kara Wrice.

“She had this effervescent quality about her, just comfortable in her own skin in the best possible way,” said Clarke, co-owner, of Mother Model Management in St. Louis.

Clarke knew Kara was meant for modeling. For the last three years, she has been an integral part of Mother Model Management and a role model to younger girls just entering the modeling world.

“She was the girl that was the leader and always brought the fun, and would welcome the new ones and make them feel comfortable,” said Clarke. “We knew that by next summer, we’d be launching her into the fashion world at a higher level, but that doesn’t get to happen now.”

Clarke says Kara’s father, Karl Wrice, broke the news that the 16-year-old drowned on Friday in the Meramec River in Castlewood State Park. Karl tells News 4 she was drinking on the water and believes it was a contributing factor in her drowning. Kara’s family did not know she was on the water at the time. Karl declined to speak on camera, but he shared several images of his daughter as a model, student and athlete.

“She is a wonderful student, she is the exact kid that every parent would want their kid to be,” said John Thomas, Assistant Principal at Webster Groves High School.

Thomas is also a neighbor of the Wrice family. He remembers Kara as a hard-working, all-American girl. She also played volleyball for the high school. Thomas says she leaves a hole in their tight-knit school district and believes the healing has only begun.

“We’ve talked about what does that look like for the rest of the year? What does that look like for some of the kids that were there? How can we be good teammates, good neighbors?” said Thomas.

Right now, the district is providing counseling resources to anyone in the school affected by her death. In the month of June, more than 17 people have drowned or died on Missouri waters. Kara’s loved ones say her death is a reminder that young people need to be more careful and make decisions that protect their safety both on and off land.

“Doing your best to not get pulled into things that can end tragically like this,” said Clarke.

“For parents to talk to their children. Close that information gap to let kids know that their parents love them,” said Thomas. “They want to be there. They want to help them.”

A GoFundMe page has been created so Kara's family can raise money for a scholarship fund in her name.

Copyright 2021 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

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