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Friends, family mourn 'very lovely person' in Ahmann

Ellen "Ellie" Ahmann

Ellie Ahmann enjoyed life and she wasn’t shy about expressing it.

“You could hear her laugh a mile away,” said lifelong friend and fellow Woodbury resident Katie Pierson. “That was one of her defining features – her smile and her laugh.”

Pierson’s memories were among countless remembrances that swirled last week as friends and family members wrestled with news that Ahmann, 21, had died after her vehicle crashed into the Mississippi River.

“There has been just an outpouring of people saying the same,” said Ahmann’s mother, Barbara Ahmann.

Ahmann's funeral is noon today at Guardian Angels Catholic Church in Oakdale.

Police in La Crosse, Wis., continued to investigate the circumstances surrounding the Winona State University student’s death, which occurred early New Year’s Day.

According to a La Crosse Police Department news release, police and firefighters were called at 1:27 a.m. for a possible vehicle in the river.

A city transit worker had witnessed tire tracks going off the road, down a steep embankment and out onto the ice, where a vehicle was seen falling through a hole in a Mississippi River back channel known as Swift Creek.

Authorities deployed underwater cameras and found the vehicle submerged in about 6 to 8 feet of water. The vehicle, containing the lone occupant, was removed from the water later in the day.

Rank said investigators were trying to piece together why Ahmann continued driving straight on Jackson Street, which terminates along the river’s edge.

“There’s no reason she should have gone straight there,” he said, adding that there was no indication the vehicle’s brakes were applied.

Rank did not disclose where Ahmann, a part-time bartender at a La Crosse tavern, was last seen prior to the crash.

An autopsy was performed Friday, Jan. 3.

Rank said it was unknown if alcohol was a factor in the crash, but noted that investigators are awaiting toxicology results from the La Crosse County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Ahmann’s death left friends of the 2010 Tartan High School graduate stunned. Dozens of friends shared memories and condolences on Ahmann’s Facebook page.

Barbara Ahmann said that wasn’t surprising. Her daughter, a finance student who had just started a job at Fastenal, possessed a unique devotion to family and friends, she said.

“She wasn’t the type of person who would throw anybody away,” Barbara Ahmann said, calling her daughter “a very lovely person.”

Pierson agreed, fondly recalling how she and Ahmann raised kittens from the same litter as children. As Ahmann grew older, she turned from the adventurous tomboy to a “very glamorous” young woman, Pierson recalled.

“She was just so smart and so beautiful,” she said. “There’s so much to her.”

Barbara Ahmann said she’ll cherish memories from this past Christmas, where her daughter’s enthusiasm filled the family home.

“She loved to laugh,” Barbara Ahmann said. “Her smile just lighted a room.”

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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