The parents of a 21-year-old Woodbury woman killed when her car crashed early New Year's Day in La Crosse, Wis., were mourning the loss of their daughter Thursday.
"She was an extremely wonderful girl and was loved by a lot of people and motivated in her studies at Winona State, and she's dearly missed. It's a tragic thing that happened," Marie Ellen Ahmann's mother, Barbara, said in a voice mail Thursday.
La Crosse police are investigating the cause of the crash that plunged Ahmann's car into the frigid Mississippi River.
Ahmann was driving west on Jackson Street in a Toyota sedan sometime after midnight when her car left the road and went down a 40-foot embankment, police spokesman Sgt. Randy Rank said. The vehicle went into Swift Creek, a river channel, crashing through the ice.
Police were called to the scene about 1:30 a.m. by a city transit employee who had spotted tire tracks where Ahmann's car left the road. Divers recovered Ahmann's body from the car, which was submerged in 6 to 8 feet of water.
She was pronounced dead at the scene. An autopsy is scheduled for Friday.
Rank said that the posted speed limit in that area is 25 miles per hour and that investigators were reviewing whether speed was a factor.
"That's still under investigation. The accident is being reconstructed by the Wisconsin State Patrol," Rank said.
He added that "there was no indication of braking."
Friends and family members were shocked by the death of the young woman. She was finishing her senior year at Winona State University, where she majored in finance.
Bill Ahmann said his daughter, who went by Ellie, had recently started an internship at Fastenal, a Winona-based industrial supply company.
"Everything was going in a good direction for the kid," he said.
She was also working as a bartender at CheapShots in La Crosse.
"Our WSU community mourns the loss of student Marie Ellen 'Ellie' Ahmann, who died New Year's Eve in a car accident. Counseling and support services are available to all students and WSU community members who may be affected by this loss. Ellie's family and friends are in our thoughts and hearts," the university said Thursday in a statement on its Facebook page.
News of her death prompted an outpouring of grief on social media.
"RIP to a lost Winona State Warrior, Ellie Ahmann. It breaks my heart to see a girl with so much life left to live go so soon. Heartbreaking," wrote one Twitter user on Thursday.
Later, Barbara Ahmann wrote a post on her daughter's Facebook page, thanking Ellie's friends for their support.
"Again, we (Ellie's Family) are overwhelmed with all of the kind thoughts everyone has posted and I have received a number of personal messages as well. We always knew we were blessed to have Ellie Ahmann as a daughter and we now know that she shared her love and spirit with so many of you," she said.
"We have not been able to schedule a service for Ellie due to some logistical issues with the autopsy. As soon as we know, we will post on her page, it will be sometime next week. God bless all of you for your love and friendship to our Ellie."