Remembering Sam: Questions linger for family after 2020 death of 19-year-old UofSC student

Published: Oct. 18, 2021 at 9:57 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 18, 2021 at 11:33 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - When University of South Carolina student Sam Laundon was reported missing after a house party in Columbia, his brother Thomas begged the community for answers.

A year later, Thomas Laundon still has questions despite the case being closed and ruled accidental by the Richland County Sheriff’s Department.

“You accept the loss and you move on and there is a part of you that thinks someone might have had something to do with this,” Thomas Laundon said.

Sam Laundon was reported missing the afternoon after a house party in 2020, according to RCSD.

According to the report from law enforcement, the group left the party and got lost around 2 in the morning on their way home.

Laundon’s friends ordered an Uber, but Laundon hopped two barbed-wire fences while drunk and fell 450 feet.

“It just doesn’t make sense that an Uber pulls up and instead of getting in a car he decides to scale a six-foot barbed wire fence that says ‘no trespassing open-pit,’ Laundon said.”If he was under the influence he must have climbed it pretty well for being that drunk. It doesn’t make a lot of sense that he would do this.”

Thomas said his questions surrounding his brother’s death have cost him some nights of sleep. But in recent months, people have found Sam’s story online while digging into other stories of missing people and murders and reached out to Thomas with their suspicions of what happened to Sam that night.

“At first it was kind of tough to reopen up the types of details, especially with strangers people reaching out on social media...then it was kind of comforting,” he said.

The report from RCSD says the case is closed and there was no evidence of foul play. The report also lays out that multiple agencies including the RCSD Aerial Unit, the Columbia Fire Department, DNR, and Columbia Police helped with the search from the air and the ground.

Thomas has been also seeking comfort in sharing Sam’s story.

During the height of the pandemic, Sam was living with Thomas in North Carolina and working at a nursing home to help people.

“If he could go out of his way to help someone he would’ve,” Thomas said. “Everything he did was to help people...not to be seen [and] not to be on social media.”In the past year, the Laundons have set up a scholarship in Sam’s honor at UofSC, grew a memorial garden, and are working on other projects with Sam’s old high school.

Thomas hopes Sam’s name becomes associated with kindness and a love for life.

“Be kind, be adventurous, climb new mountains, go out and swim on the river, take a day on the beach, and at the same time go out and help people,” Thomas said.

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