DENHAM SPRINGS — The Denham Springs community is mourning the loss of a high school senior destined for a future in the automotive industry.
Thomas Midkiff died in the early morning hours of Nov. 8 due to carbon monoxide poisoning in the Bass Pro parking lot in Denham Springs. There was a juvenile passenger, who was transported to the hospital, and has since improved in condition.
His parents found him in his car around 3:15 a.m. after his mother tells UWK they tracked his phone to the location thanks to the Life 360 app.
“Car kids hang out in parking lots,” said the teen’s mother, Melissa Midkiff. “To have his location at a parking lot was no big deal, but when he didn’t respond to my call to say, ‘Hey, it’s time to come home,’ that’s when we went to his location on his phone, not expecting what we saw.”
“You know the cliche that parents aren’t supposed to bury their children? We’ve made decisions that we didn’t even know had to be made in life in the last week,” she continued. “We have three other children we still have to protect and take care of.”
UWK has learned that officials found soot beneath the vehicle, indicating an exhaust leak. Under the hood, there was soot from the exhaust near the air cabin intake. It was later determined that carbon monoxide leaked into the vehicle through the AC vents.
Melissa said Thomas went to school for the first two blocks of the day before he went home to change clothes before heading to his internship at Hollingsworth Ford.
“Senior year is a lot of milestones,” Melissa said. “That’s kind of hard, the thought of that. It’s all kind of a blur. It’s hard to believe it’s been as many days as it’s been. He came home, changed clothes, and told me bye before he went to work,” Melissa recalled. “It was all just a surprise.”
Thomas attended Denham Springs High and was part of the Livingston Parish Automotive Learning Center program. He earned college credits and National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certifications as a part of the program.
“He was job-ready,” Melissa explained. “That program has them job-ready their junior year. His plans were to stay under the hood as long as possible. He was the one where his friends would say, ‘Hey, I’m working on this,’ and he was there. He would be there however long it took. That’s why being out late didn’t alarm us because if they were working on a car, they would work on it until it was finished. That’s how these kids are. They band together.”
Melissa said her son was very independent and marched to his beat. His love for cars extended beyond just enjoyment. He and his friends spent countless hours upgrading and repairing their vehicles, always striving to make them better, louder, and faster. His approach to friendship made friends for life.
“If he wanted to do something, he was going to do it,” she said. “He had red hair, so we kind of always said that fit his personality. If he set his mind to it, he was going to do it. He was definitely mischievous but in a good way.”
Thomas’ funeral service was on Nov. 15. Melissa said the community’s support was evident.
“We had nine pallbearers, and we probably could have had 30 because of how their community is,” she said. “They are special kids. They have already pursued counseling. Their parents have supported us. Something that bonds them together is their love of cars. I guess it’s a culture that can be looked upon as obnoxious and mischievous, and they’re up to no good. In reality, they are young men being raised by amazing families.”