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Autopsy Scheduled for Petaluma Teen Who Died at Tahoe

Alyssa Byrne might have been disoriented when she left a music festival on foot. Her body was found in a snow bank.

By Bay City News Service

Alyssa Byrne, the 19-year-old Petaluma woman who was found dead Friday alongside a road in South Lake Tahoe, might have been disoriented when she left the SnowGlobe Music Festival she attended and headed back to her room at the Horizon Casino Resort early New Year's Day, an El Dorado County Sheriff's Office lieutenant said Monday.

Byrne's body was found behind a snow bank off Pioneer Trail at about 8:30 a.m. Friday. An employee of the South Lake Tahoe Utility District spotted her body 10 feet off Pioneer Trail from on an elevated truck.

"It is believed that Alyssa Byrne had attended the SnowGlobe Music Festival event late on New Year's Eve, and possibly became disoriented when she left the event on foot," Lt. Pete Van Arnum said in a news release.

"There is no indication of foul play or trauma to the body, and El Dorado County Sheriff's Office detectives and the CSI team have processed the scene for evidence," Van Arnum said.

The Sacramento County coroner's office will conduct an autopsy. A spokeswoman said it had not been scheduled but could occur Tuesday. The final results of the autopsy will likely be pending tests to determine if alcohol or drugs were in Byrne's system.

Drinking alcohol or not dressing warmly enough in cold weather lowers the body's core temperature, which, in turn, can cause fatal hypothermia. Symptoms of hypothermia include confusion or difficulty thinking and poor decision-making, disorientation, apathy and lack of concern for one's condition, according to mayoclinic.com.

The festival at Lake Tahoe Community College was held Dec. 29-31. Byrne and her friends were staying at the Horizon Casino Resort about four miles away in Stateline, Nev.

Posts on Facebook about Byrne's death admonish people not to blame the festival's organizers, urge festival attendees to keep track of their friends through a buddy system and call for personal responsibility.

Some posts, however, said festival security should have made sure people leaving the festival that night when temperatures were near zero degrees should have made sure they boarded shuttle buses back to the hotels in the area.

"We continue to keep Alyssa Byrne, her family and our friends in our thoughts in prayers during this difficult time," read a post Sunday on the SnowGlobe Music Festival's website.

"We are deeply saddened to learn of the death of Alyssa Byrne," a post read on Friday.

"Our deepest sympathies go out to Alyssa's family and friends. We appreciate the quick response from South Lake Tahoe officials in response to the investigation."

Byrne was a standout athlete in her youth and at Casa Grande High School, from which she graduated in 2011. Many of her former teammates, now in college, were home on the holiday break when Byrne died and were able to attend a candlelight vigil held Friday night in Petaluma.

Amy Griggs, an official with the Novato Lacrosse Club, said Byrne played on the Petaluma High club lacrosse team with girls from several schools; high school girls lacrosse teams are not sanctioned by the California Interscholastic Federation.

"She was super athletic, jumping over opponents to pass or shoot goals was Alyssa's signature move," said Griggs, whose daughter played on Byrne's 2010-11 team. "She had unconventional form with a hard-to-block, side-arm shot. Cradling a lacrosse ball sideways in a girls stick with its narrow pocket is extremely challenging, which is why no one but Alyssa shot that way."

— Novato Patch's Brent Ainsworth contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2012 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.

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