KATELYN Taylor's life shone like a bright star before it was cut tragically short in dark waters last week.
So it was apt that when her parents stared out over the Launceston skyline early Monday morning and saw the plane bringing their little girl home, it was the brightest thing in the sky.
Ms Taylor, 19, a Queensland university student from Summerhill who'd dreamt of a life teaching children, drowned on the Sunshine Coast on March 16.
The story of the innocent but fatal decision to have a dip in the early hours of the morning is gut-wrenching.
Ms Taylor and friend Johnny Sullivan had been swimming without issue for 20 minutes before Marcoola's notorious rip took hold of the couple, dragging them 40 metres out to sea.
Ms Taylor, a fit, capable swimmer, tried to fight it but eventually succumbed to the thrashing undertow.
``I'm just so glad she wasn't on her own, Katelyn was with him [Johnny] right to the end in his arms,'' her mother Gaylene said.
``Her last words to (him) were `I just can't stay awake any longer I'm exhausted'.
``She just went heavy and it was just pulling them under so badly.''
Mrs Taylor and husband Craig have made it clear they don't hold Mr Sullivan responsible for the incident.
The New Zealander woke from a coma last week to explain their daughter's last moments.
``We are so thankful for him waking up to give us answers because if he'd passed away none of us would know, you would forever be in doubt,'' Mrs Taylor said.
``That's when I was able to calm down a bit and tell him to his face `it's OK, it's OK Johnny.''
The parents had the harrowing job of packing their daughter's belongings and organising for her to be brought home.
``We sat up last night until 2.30 and watched the plane go over and gave Katelyn a wave,'' Mrs Taylor said yesterday.
``It just made you feel better just knowing she was back,'' Mr Taylor added.
The teenager's death has sparked an outpouring of grief in Launceston and on the Sunshine Coast.
The days following the tragedy have been marked by impromptu tributes to Ms Taylor, such as balloons been released in Royal Park and ceremonies on Marcoola Beach.
Mr Taylor said he remembered his daughter as ``the mad redhead with a beautiful smile''.
Her adventurous streak matched by a focus and intelligence landed her a high school finish in the top 10 per cent of St Patrick's College.
With a 90 TCE score, her career options were wide open.
Three years ago the then 16-year-old travelled to the US, by herself, to work in education.
For three months she taught primary school children in Seattle.
Last month she continued to chase her dream, moving to Queensland to study primary education.
Despite their sadness the Taylors, including younger sister Bridie and Chloe, have found a sweet way to remember Katelyn.
Mrs Taylor said the family's lasting image of Katelyn resembled one of her daughter's special movies.
``The Titanic movie flashed in my mind and I thought `she's my Jack'.''