February 21, 2013

Body found in LA hotel water tank puzzles investigators

The cisterns are on a platform 10 feet above the roof. Someone would need a ladder and the ability to bypass an alarm and locked door to access them.

The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES  — More testing must be done to determine the cause of death of a 21-year-old Canadian tourist whose body was found wedged in a water tank atop a downtown Los Angeles hotel, authorities said Thursday.

click image to enlarge

Water tanks seen on the roof of the Hotel Cecil in a Wednesday Feb. 20,2013 file photo. Police say the body of a missing Canadian woman was found Tuesday at the bottom of one of four cisterns on the roof of the hotel. The tanks provide water for hotel taps and would have been used by guests for washing and drinking. Los Angeles County Department of Public Health officials were expected to release the results of tests on the water on Thursday, Feb. 21. Investigators used body markings to identify 21-year-old Elisa Lam, police spokeswoman Officer Diana Figueroa said late Tuesday. (AP Photo/Nick Ut, File)

click image to enlarge

Hotel Cecil in Los Angeles is seen in a Wednesday Feb. 20, 2013 file photo. Police say the body of a missing Canadian woman was found Tuesday at the bottom of one of four cisterns on the roof of the hotel. The tanks provide water for hotel taps and would have been used by guests for washing and drinking. Los Angeles County Department of Public Health officials were expected to release the results of tests on the water on Thursday, Feb. 21. Investigators used body markings to identify 21-year-old Elisa Lam, police spokeswoman Officer Diana Figueroa said late Tuesday. (AP Photo/Nick Ut, File)

An autopsy performed Thursday didn't provide definitive answers into whether Elisa Lam was killed or if she fell victim to a bizarre accident. Coroner's officials will await toxicology tests before making a final determination.

Lam's body was found Tuesday in a water cistern atop the downtown Cecil Hotel. Police have called her death suspicious.

Guest complaints about low water pressure prompted a maintenance worker to make the gruesome discovery.

Before she died, hotel surveillance footage showed her inside an elevator pushing buttons and sticking her head out the doors, looking in both directions.

Meanwhile, water tested from the hotel didn't contain any live bacteria that would cause illness.

Although county health officials issued a do-not-drink order, the results that came back Thursday indicated the water was safe from a "microbiological standpoint," said Angelo Bellomo, the county's director of environmental health.

"We can't say what the quality of the water was prior to the samples," taken Tuesday, Bellomo said. "We can only say that the water met the standard at the time it was sampled."

Chlorine in the water likely killed any bacteria in the tank where Lam's body was found, Bellomo said. Two standard water tests were performed and samples were taken from throughout the hotel.

Bellomo said the hotel has retained a consultant who submitted a plan to sanitize the water lines that will be retested before they are put back into operation. Only water for toilets is flowing for hotel guests currently.

Lam, of Vancouver, British Columbia, traveled alone to Los Angeles on Jan. 26 and was last seen five days later by workers at the 600-room hotel near Skid Row. She intended to travel to Santa Cruz, about 350 miles north of Los Angeles.

High school classmate Alex Ristea, of Vancouver, called Lam's death shocking and said she was one of the friendliest people he knew.

"This is the last person I expect out of all my friends to have something like this happen to her," Ristea said.

University of British Columbia spokesman Randy Schmidt confirmed that Lam had attended summer school at the university, but she was not registered for the current session.

Ristea said he believes Lam had just gone to California for a holiday, saying she had posted pictures on Facebook from tourist locations such as the San Diego Zoo.

Reached by phone, a man who confirmed that it was Lam's home of said he was busy and hung up when asked to speak about her. A woman reached later at the same number, when told it was a reporter calling, also hung up after saying, "Sorry."

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors




Further Discussion

Here at KJonline.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)