Nelson Mandela: A life in pictures
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
RENO, Nev. (AP) — The search for a missing 19-year-old California woman who disappeared on New Year’s Eve at Lake Tahoe ended Friday when her body was found behind a snow bank about a mile from the site of a music festival she attended that night, authorities said.
Alyssa Byrne of Petaluma may have tried to walk three miles in freezing weather to the hotel where she was staying, and became disoriented or lost, Douglas County Undersheriff Paul Howell said. Her body was found along a road.
The cause of death has not yet been determined, but neither foul play nor suicide is suspected, he said.
Howell noted other concertgoers decided to walk back to a hotel in Stateline, a tourist destination on Lake Tahoe’s south shore, because there were long lines for shuttle buses.
Nighttime temperatures have plunged to zero in the area in the past week, with daytime highs still well below freezing.
“If exposed to the elements you could succumb to that,” Howell told The Associated Press. “We won’t speculate on that (hypothermia) as the cause of death, but we’re hoping to get an answer from the autopsy.”
The autopsy also will determine whether alcohol or drugs were a factor, he said.
Byrne’s father, Kevin Byrne, issued a statement thanking authorities, friends and family who helped in the search.
“Our entire family is devastated,” the statement said. “We were still holding out hope that she would be found safe. We will miss Alyssa and she will be in our hearts forever.”
A utility worker found Byrne’s body around 8:30 a.m. Friday along Pioneer Trail, a major thoroughfare on Tahoe’s south shore, Douglas County sheriff’s Sgt. Pat Brooks said. Her body was just off the roadway but obstructed from view by the snow bank.
The discovery was made about a mile southeast of the festival venue at Lake Tahoe Community College. Stateline hotel-casinos are some three miles east of the campus. Tens of thousands of young revelers gather in the area annually to ring in the new year.
Byrne was in South Lake Tahoe with friends over the holiday to attend the SnowGlobe Music Festival, which drew 40,000 people over a three-day run. They were staying at the Horizon Casino Resort in Stateline.
Friends had told authorities that they last saw Byrne in a bar at the resort about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday, but Howell later discounted that report and said Byrne never made it back to the hotel. He said it’s not unusual for friends to become separated at major events.
Cellphone records show her last call that night was made from the vicinity of the concert, Howell said.
“We know she left the event, but we don’t know where she was last seen,” Howell said. “We’ll talk to people who thought they saw her, and try to determine what led to her death.”
Howell dismissed angst-filled tweets concerning a falling-out with a friend the day of her disappearance, saying they were not believed to be a factor in her death.
Festival organizers issued a statement saying the investigation is ongoing and they are working with authorities to learn more.
“We are deeply saddened to learn of the death of Alyssa Byrne,” the statement said. “Our deepest sympathies go out to Alyssa’s family and friends.”
Byrne’s disappearance prompted a dayslong effort by search and rescue teams, friends and family members who posted fliers and urged anyone with information on the young woman’s whereabouts to come forward.
Byrne was taking classes at Santa Rosa Junior College’s Petaluma campus to become a firefighter/paramedic and worked as a hostess at Cattlemens restaurant in Petaluma.
The music festival website urges concertgoers to be prepared for cold temperatures, and not to attempt to walk or hitchhike to and from the event.
Parking is prohibited at the festival, and attendees must buy a pass for shuttle bus service for transportation, the website says.
Festival producer Chad Donnelly told the Tahoe Daily Tribune that he plans to refine the shuttle service and develop ways to shorten the lines that formed at security, but overall the event went as predicted.
While the festival tilts heavily toward electronic dance music, it features an eclectic mix of entertainment, including rap, hip-hop and electro-funk.
South Lake Tahoe City Manager Nancy Kerry didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment. The city approved a permit for the festival.
Lake Tahoe Community College issued a statement saying a memorial fund in Byrne’s name has been set up with the college’s foundation to assist her family.
“Our prayers and condolences are with her family and friends as we try to cope and understand this dreadful loss,” the statement says. “Administrators from the college are cooperating with authorities to assist with the ongoing investigation.”
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
Mandela is accompanied by his former wife Winnie, moments after his release from prison February 11, 1990 after serving 27 years in jail. (Reuters)
In this February, 1990 photo, shortly after his release from 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela, gives the black power salute to the 120,000 supporters packing Soccer City stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg. (AP Photo)
Nelson Mandela showed his passport in February 19, 1990, shortly after his release from prison. The South African government authorized an application for himself and his wife Winnie - (Juda Ngwenya / Reuters)
In this July 27, 1991 photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro, and Nelson Mandela gesture during the celebration of the "Day of the Revolution" in Matanzas, Cuba. (AP Photo)
In this July 4, 1993 photo, President Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela listen during Fourth of July ceremonies in Philadelphia during which Clinton presented the Philadelphia Liberty Medal to the African National Congress president and South African President F.W. de Klerk. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
President of the African National Congress Nelson Mandela acknowledges cheers from the crowd as he prepares to unveil the ANC's official election platform in 1994. (AP Photo/David Brauchli)
African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela greeted residents of Mmabatho in March 1994, during a visit after the nominal homeland came under South African control following the ousting of the former President Lucas Mangope. (Reuters/Howard Burditt)
South African President Nelson Mandela smiles with actor Sidney Poitier at a press conference in Cape Town in 1996. Poitier played Mandela in the film "One Man, One Vote" (AP Photo / Sasa Kralj)
South African President Nelson Mandela waves to crowds as he sits next to Queen Elizabeth II in a an open carriage on the way to Buckingham Palace.(AP/Louisa Buller)
Chairman of the Constitutional Assembly Cyril Ramaphosa, left, holds up a copy of the country's constitution which was signed by President Nelson Mandela, in December 1996. (AP Photo / Adil Bradlow / POOL)
Nelson Mandela at a news conference in Johannesburg in February 2000. (AP Photo / Denis Farrell)
South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar, right, received the Rugby World Cup trophy from President Nelson Mandela also wearing a South African rugby shirt, after South Africa defeated New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup , in 1995. (AP Photo / Ross Setford)