A University of Wisconsin-La Crosse student found in a ditch Sunday after leaving a local tavern died of hypothermia secondary to intoxication. An autopsy conducted Tuesday in Madison on 23 year-old Neala Frye determined the cause of death.
An Onalaska police officer found Frye’s body about 8:40 p.m. Sunday in a ditch adjacent to some railroad tracks bordering the Black River. The location is about 300 yards south of where Irvin Street ends. Frye had spent Saturday night at the Spillway Pub, at 209 Irvin Street, for a promotional event for a tanning salon where she worked.
Surveillance video showed Frye leaving the tavern alone about 1 a.m. A motorist saw a woman investigators believe was Frye walking toward the river between 1:30 and 2 a.m., according to Onalaska Police Chief Jeff Trotnic.
Police and friends of Frye searched Sunday for the senior from Evanville, after she failed to show up for her shift at Menards, where she also worked. Trotnic said authorities did not suspect foul play but called in the state Division of Criminal Investigation to help with the case.
Frye’s friends wouldn’t speculate on what led to her death, but told the La Crosse Tribune that it would be uncharacteristic for her to get drunk at an unfamiliar bar without her friends, especially while working.