STATELINE, Nev. — For three increasingly frantic days, family members and friends had searched for Alyssa Byrne, 19, of Petaluma. On Friday morning they began mourning her death, their hopes dashed by the discovery of her body in a snowbank in South Lake Tahoe.
A worker atop an elevated utility truck spotted the body just as search and rescue crews were launching their efforts for the day, and just as Byrne's father, Kevin, was rounding up fliers to distribute in the hope of generating clues to her whereabouts.
"I couldn't stand now if I wanted to," Kevin Byrne said several hours later, seated at a table with his brother and friends at the Horizon Casino Resort in Stateline, where his daughter had stayed while attending a three-day music festival.
Authorities said there were no preliminary signs of traumatic injury or foul play.
Byrne wiped back tears as he described calling his wife, Kimberly Miller-Byrne, in Petaluma with the news.
"My wife couldn't speak," he said. "Thankfully, she was surrounded by family and friends ... when I had to give her the worst news of her life."
Until 9 a.m. Friday, Kevin Byrne had been working with two dozen family members and friends to print new fliers about his daughter and raising reward money in excess of $10,000 — all to ensure his daughter made it back home.
But she lay hidden from view just 10 feet off a busy road and a mile or so from the Lake Tahoe Community College campus where the SnowGlobe Music Festival was held.
Douglas County, Nev., Undersheriff Paul Howell said she was lying uncovered and that the case would remain under investigation.
"Our condolences to Alyssa's family and friends," Howell said in announcing her death at a news conference. "It's an ending we did not want to see. Our hearts go out to the family."
Kevin Byrne described his daughter, the youngest of two children, as a "stud athlete" who played on boys' Little League teams until she was 14.
She was a "little girl who wore a baseball cap everywhere she went." Later, she embraced lacrosse, playing first for the club at Casa Grande High School, where she graduated in 2011, and later for the Petaluma High School club, which she thought was better.
"She has a great energy about her," he said, echoing the comments of numerous friends who described Byrne as a fun-loving, social butterfly who knew practically everyone in town.
She had been attending Santa Rosa Junior College in hope of becoming a paramedic/firefighter and was working as a hostess at Cattlemens restaurant.
He said he was at the Sheriff's Office at 9 a.m. Friday when he was informed that a body believed to be his daughter's had been found. His worst fear was confirmed about 45 minutes later through a unique tattoo on her wrist.
Kevin Byrne said he might have tried to stop his daughter from attending SnowGlobe had he known more about the event. But she was 19 and headstrong, and he conceded she might not have listened.
She left for the event Saturday with three friends who shared a room at the Horizon and attended the festival together, though many other friends from Petaluma were in the crowd.
Jay Donnellan, a Casa Grande classmate and friend who was traveling with her, said he last saw Byrne around 11 p.m. Monday, New Year's Eve, when she left the concert early though it was the festival's final night.