Friends of Samantha Josephson, 21, say she left a bar alone and got into a Chevy Impala
Credit: Columbia Police Dept.

The University of South Carolina has confirmed the death of a 21-year-old student who was reported missing after friends say she mistakenly entered a car she believed to be an Uber.

The death of senior Samantha Josephson was announced Saturday by the university’s president Harris Pastides in a letter addressed to the “Carolina family.”

“It is with the heaviest of hearts that I write these words this morning. Our prayers are with the family and friends of Samantha Josephson following the devastating news of her death,” Pastides wrote. “Times like these leave me searching for words of wisdom and comfort. However, I take solace that the Carolina Family is here to embrace those who are hurting.”

Josephson’s father Seymour Josephson, of New Jersey, also confirmed her death in an emotional Facebook post.

“It is with tremendous sadness and of a broken heart that I post this!” he wrote alongside a photo of him sitting on a couch with Samantha. “I will miss and love my baby girl for the rest of life. Samantha is no longer with us but she will not be forgotten. It is extremely hard to write this and post it but I love her with all my heart. I could continue to write about her but it kills me. I sit here and cry while looking at the picture and write this.”

The Columbia Police Department had previously asked the public for help in tracking down Josephson, whom authorities said was last seen by friends at a local bar between 1:30 and 2:00 a.m. Friday.

“Loved ones have not been able to make contact with her since,” the department wrote on Twitter. “They’re worried about her well-being & safety.”

Investigators said they believed Josephson was seen entering a black Chevy Impala just after 2 a.m.

The Columbia Police Department did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

Friend Ashlynn Steele told the university’s student newspaper The Daily Gamecock that Josephson was with friends at the Bird Dog bar, but left the bar alone, and that she got into the Chevy thinking it was her Uber.

The paper reports that the actual Uber she ordered canceled after she did not show at the pick-up point.

Josephson was a political science major from Robbinsville, New Jersey. She planned to go to the Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law in Philadelphia upon graduating in May, according to The State.

A GoFundMe page set up to cover Josephson’s funeral costs has so far raised more than $9,000.

In his letter, Pastides urged students to be “active bystanders,” and to travel in groups, stick together, and use the RAVE Guardian safety app, which allows users to set virtual safety timers and discreetly contact authorities.

“It has been a difficult week for our extended Carolina family. The loss of a student is never easy but this has been a particularly painful few days as we have experienced loss on several of our campuses,” he wrote. “As a family, let’s continue to pray for all the families experiencing heartache and grief this week.”

The State reports that a USC student died earlier this week in an apparent suicide.