A Missouri teen who hoped to move to New York to continue her budding modeling career drowned at a state park, relatives said.
Kara Wrice, a 16-year-old standout junior at Webster Groves High School, died Friday in the Meramac River in Castlewood State Park, her grieving father told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
“She was a straight-A student,” Karl Wrice said. “She was also a teenager who made a very not-good decision.”
The teen — who had worked as a model for two years, appearing in ads for Famous Footwear – was drinking at the state park with a friend before she drowned, her father said.
The park was closed to the public as rescuers searched for Kara, whose body was recovered later Friday. Heavy rain in the area over several days made for increased risks for swimmers, St. Louis County police said.
“When the water is up, the entire dynamic of the water changes out there, currents and everything,” Sgt. Tracy Panus told the newspaper Friday. “You can be the strongest swimmer and it doesn’t matter.”
At 14, Kara signed with Mother Model Management, the Post-Dispatch reported. The St. Louis-based agency discovered stars like actor Ashton Kutcher and former Victoria’s Secret model Karlie Kloss, according to its website.
The agency posted a photo of Kara on its Instagram page in August 2020, saying she was “young but stood out” among other aspiring models in the crowd.
“When Kara came in for the first time, she was quiet and soft spoken, but we quickly found that she was really a fireball full of personality,” the post read. “This girl is comfortable in her own skin, brimming with confidence, full of energy and such a natural when it comes to modeling.”
Kara had modeled for Famous Footwear and was hoping to later move to New York City to take her career to new heights, her father told the Post-Dispatch.
“She had got my personality; she was a rock star,” Karl Wrice said. “She didn’t have an enemy – very extroverted. She left a large footprint – many people have reached out to me since.”
The modeling agency, meanwhile, remembered Kara as a star “in the making” in an Instagram post Monday afternoon.
“We are heartbroken,” the post read. “Devastated. She was cherished. A truly special girl and an important part of Mother.”
Weeks earlier, Kara, who signed with Mother Model in January 2019, accompanied the agency to an open call in Iowa, where she shared her brief modeling past and encouraged other girls to “be their best,” the post continued.
“She was a leader, a bright spot in our day,” the agency said. “We KNEW she was destined for great things, inside and outside of the modeling world.”
Kara also played volleyball and worked as a lifeguard, her dad said. She’s survived by her father, her mother Lisa and three brothers.
“She was the classic American teenager,” Webster Groves High School Assistant Principal John Thomas told the Post-Dispatch. “You never expect it to hit this close to home … It makes you hold your own kids closer because you don’t know how much time you’re promised.”
At least 17 people drowned or died in boating accidents last month throughout Missouri, eclipsing the mark during any previous June in the past decade, the Post-Dispatch reported.