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Girl who died at 10KLF hoped for career in nursing

Ashley McCoy made the honor roll at her high school in West Salem, Wis., which she graduated from earlier this year.

The 17-year-old was planning to pursue a nursing career.

That future vanished when McCoy was found dead Friday in a campground tent at the 10,000 Lakes Festival at Soo Pass Ranch near Detroit Lakes, Minn.

Preliminary autopsy results indicate neither foul play nor trauma played a role in her death, Becker County Sheriff Tim Gordon said in a statement released Monday.

The investigation will remain open until toxicology reports are completed, Gordon said. McCoy's boyfriend, Andrew Loomis, 22,

La Crosse, Wis., awoke just after noon Friday to find McCoy unconscious and unresponsive, Gordon said.

Gordon said it appeared McCoy died in her sleep.

"We know alcohol was involved, but to what extent is not known," he said. "Anything you hear regarding alcohol or drug content is nothing but speculation."

During last year's festival, two men were found dead on the Friday of the event.

Gordon said at the time it was suspected drugs played a role in one of the deaths.

According to an obituary published in the Coulee News of West Salem, McCoy was planning to attend Viterbo University in La Crosse in the fall to pursue a nursing career.

She was working as a certified nursing assistant at a nursing home in La Crosse at the time of her death.

"She loved animals and flowers, especially daffodils," read McCoy's obituary, which listed the names of her pets, "Cooper, Bailey, Puff, Duke, Sassy and Ginger."

'A neat kid'

"It's been a petting zoo around here since day one," said Doug McCoy, talking about his daughter's love of animals from the family's home in West Salem on Monday.

He said his daughter had four dogs, two cats, eight kittens and two snakes.

"She really enjoyed life and loved people," he said, adding that his daughter derived great satisfaction from helping Alzheimer's patients at the nursing home where she worked.

He said her senior class project, which made up 50 percent of her grade, was a look at the Alzheimer's experience from a patient-level perspective.

"She aced it," he said of the work.

McCoy said he is waiting for answers about what caused his daughter's death.

"Anytime a 17-year-old leaves you unexpectedly, it's a mystery," said McCoy, who described his daughter as someone whose concern and care for others touched many lives.

"She was a neat kid with a lot of things going for her," he said.

The Detroit Lakes Tribune contributed to this report.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555