Kindergarten Teacher Missing Since February Car Crash Found Dead in Oregon River: 'A Beacon of Light'

Rachel Merchant-Ly's body was found about 7.5 miles downstream from the crash scene, the sheriff's office said

<p>Rachel Merchant-Ly/Facebook</p> Rachel Merchant-Ly

Rachel Merchant-Ly/Facebook

Rachel Merchant-Ly
  • The body of Rachel Merchant-Ly has been found nearly two months after she vanished in a February car crash, authorities said

  • On Friday, April 19, a volunteer found Merchant-Ly's body in the North Umpqua River, about 7.5 miles downstream from the crash site

  • The kindergarten teacher's "dedication to her students, her family and her community is unparalleled," according to a GoFundMe fundraiser

A kindergarten teacher has been found dead in an Oregon river nearly two months after her body disappeared in a car accident, authorities said.

Rachel Merchant-Ly, 27, was reported missing on Feb. 29 when she didn't arrive to work at Glide Elementary School, the Douglas County Sheriff's Office said in a Facebook post.

"Later that morning, a Douglas County Sheriff's deputy located signs of a motor vehicle crash near milepost 41 on Highway 138E, the sheriff's office said. "On Friday, March 1, 2024, Merchant-Ly's vehicle was recovered from the North Umpqua River, but she was not found inside."

Since her disappearance, authorities said there have been numerous searches conducted by water, land and air without success.

Related: Family Members Search for Missing Woman Who Disappeared in New Mexico Mountains

Amid a "large scale search" on Friday, April 19, officials said a community member volunteer located Merchant-Ly's body in the river about 7.5 miles downstream from the crash scene.

"Deputies confirmed the presence of the body and began coordinating recovery efforts," deputies said. "The Douglas County Medical Examiner's Office responded and confirmed the body to be that of Rachel Merchant-Ly."

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

According to a GoFundMe fundraiser during the ongoing search for the 27-year-old, Rachel was described as "an exceptional teacher" and "a beacon of light in our community."

"Her dedication to her students, her family and her community is unparalleled," according to the tribute. "Even in the face of adversity, she has always poured her heart and soul into everything she does."

PEOPLE has reached out to the school district for comment, but they did not immediately respond.

Related: 24-Year-Old Man Found Dead After Swimming in California Reservoir: 'We Will Miss You'

As of Tuesday, April 23, nearly $17,000 has been raised to offer aid relating to "the emotional and financial toll of this tragedy."

"Rachel's family is seeking support during this trying time. Rachel's husband, Hao Ly, describes her as an incredible and cherished soul, with a million-dollar smile that could light up anyone's day," the fundraiser added. "She brought joy to everyone she knew, loving each person for who they are."

Related: Woman Missing After Going Under Frozen Alaskan River to Save Dog: 'A Tragic Event'

In March, Hao detailed their final conversation on his Facebook page.

"You know what’s really carrying me right now?," Hao wrote at the time. "The way and the volume of how she said 'Love you Howie!' And rolled the window up and left the driveway. It just keeps my heart pumping. The last thing I heard from her."

For more People news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

Read the original article on People.