ALAMEDA, Calif. (KTVU) - A woman's body was found in a clothing recycling bin at the Nob Hill grocery store on Blanding Avenue in the city of Alameda Monday morning.
Angela Marie Lewis was a 42-year-old East Bay woman who struggled with homelessness according to her family. The family reached out to KTVU after learning of her death.
Lewis died of asphyxiation while climbing into the bin according to the Alameda County coroner’s office.
Family and friends left flowers, cards, balloons and a picture at the site.
"She struggled for a lot of years and it was painful, " said Cheryl Theis,
She described Lewis as a free spirit who had a hard life and that the loss of Lewis' mother and drug addiction contributed to her struggles and unstable living situation.
"She had family that loved her, children who adored her. We know that she wanted to turn her life around and have more security in it," Theis said.
It was around 5:30 Monday morning, when a passerby discovered Lewis's body in the donation bin.
"We were actually called there by an Alameda County deputy who was flagged down by a citizen who saw the lower half of a body protruding out of the deposit chute of the bin," says Alameda Police Lt. Wayland Gee.
Police say it appears Lewis was climbing into the bin to get an item of clothing when she became trapped.
The coroner's office tells KTVU Lewis died of "positional asphixia with compression to the neck."
"Shocking... hard to believe she's gone" said Theis.
Relatives say Lewis had been at a family gathering less than 24 hours before she was found dead.
"She had stopped by to bring my mother flowers. She wasn't some person who was so lost she remembered it was her grandma's birthday," said Theis.
Police and Lewis's family want to warn others about the danger these bins can pose.
"Nobody ever gave up on her. She was only 42. She had a lot of time to figure it out and that's all now been cut short through this ridiculous senseless accident," said Theis.
Lewis' family says she will live on in her two daughters she leaves behind. One is 22 and the other 10.
They are now planning a celebration of their mother's life.