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Woman who died in submerged SUV worked at Duluth zoo

A young woman who died after the sport utility vehicle she was driving went down a hill and into the ice-crusted water of St. Louis Bay in Superior was a recent graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth and a popular member of the Lake Superior Zoo staff.

Superior police identified Ashley Lynn Ganyo, 24, of Duluth as the victim of the accident. Ganyo was a member of the zoo's guest services team and worked in admissions as well as in the gift shop and cafe for about three years.

Her supervisor at the zoo described her as "the glue of the guest services team," said Holly Henry, marketing director.

"She was always planning social events and was very inclusive in including other people in things," Henry said.

Police responded to the one-vehicle accident at the end of North 21st Street in Billings Park about 10 a.m. Sunday. Ganyo was found seat-belted into the driver's seat of the 2002 Ford Excursion.

The SUV was mostly submerged in the water. Three trees on the edge of the water were uprooted.

Superior police said an autopsy was conducted Monday, and the preliminary report revealed that Ganyo drowned. It is suspected that alcohol, weather and speed may have been contributing factors in the crash, but toxicology reports are not expected for several weeks.

According to her Facebook page, Ganyo is from Pelican Rapids, Minn.

"The one thing anyone would tell you about Ashley is, no matter what, she was always smiling," Henry said. "She had this huge smile."

Alyssa Keehn, a cousin of the victim from Hampton, Iowa, said in a phone interview Monday night that she was told Ganyo was driving her dad's vehicle because her BMW was being worked on. She didn't know where Ganyo was coming from or heading to at the time of the accident. She just knew that her cousin was a special person.

"She was outgoing and funny," Keehn said. "She could make you laugh if you were in the worst of moods. Her smile was huge. She was someone you wanted to be around."