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A 21-year-old Buffalo woman died early Christmas day when the car she was driving veered off the eastbound lanes of the Scajaquada Expressway and plunged into Hoyt Lake in Delaware Park, authorities said.

The body of Shanika Staley, whose last known address was on Eggert Road, was found inside her late-model black Toyota after the vehicle was pulled from about five feet of water, according to homicide Chief Joseph Riga, who said foul play did not appear to be a factor in the death.

"A jogger passing by the lake spotted the back end of the vehicle protruding from the ice," Riga said Saturday. "At this point, there does not appear to be any foul play, but we won't know until the autopsy is done either later today or tomorrow."

After receiving the 8:49 a.m. call of a car in the lake, police cordoned off the area -- near the statue of David -- with crime-scene tape, and members of the Underwater Recovery Team hooked up towing chains to the car.

At approximately 10:30 a.m., the vehicle was pulled from the lake and police discovered the body, according to Riga.

"Identification was found, but we haven't been able to reach her next of kin," the chief said in explaining why the woman's name was initially being withheld.

Her name was released Saturday night.

The exact time the car left the expressway is unknown, although police think it occurred in the predawn hours.

"We don't know what caused her to veer off the road onto the grass. We know she was eastbound on the Scajaquada," Riga said.

Authorities at the scene speculated that she might have fallen asleep before her car left the road, traveled about 200 feet on a grass shoulder and then headed down a steep slope, where it crashed through approximately 4 inches of ice covering the lake.

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