Authorities Say Tourist’s Death Was Accident

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Rafu Wire and Staff Reports

The death of a 21-year-old Canadian tourist who was missing for weeks before being found in a water tank atop a downtown Los Angeles hotel where she had been staying has been deemed an accidental drowning.

Elisa Lam

Coroner’s Lt. Fred Corral says 21-year-old Elisa Lam’s cause of death was ruled an accident on Thursday. Corral says the body had no sign of trauma indicating foul play. Lam also had bipolar disorder.

Lam, who lived in Vancouver, British Columbia, had been missing since Jan. 31, when she stopped making daily contact with her parents, according to Los Angeles police. She had planned to travel to Santa Cruz, police said.

Her whereabouts remained a mystery until about 10:15 a.m. on Feb. 19, when a maintenance worker went to the roof after guests complained of low water pressure and found the body in a tank.

When The Vancouver Sun posted the latest news on its website, the comments expressed disbelief about the findings.

Jordan Wong of the University of British Columbia wrote, “Yes. JFK’s death was also accidental, and O.J. Simpson was innocent.”

Robert Haig, a mortgage agent at Dominion Lending Centres, posted, “She was murdered and doesn’t have the family in L.A. to push the police to investigate the case.”

Lam, who arrived in Los Angeles on Jan. 26, had been traveling alone and was staying at the 1920s-era Cecil Hotel at 640 Main St. near Skid Row, police said.

Surveillance video from a hotel elevator showed her pressing all of the elevator’s buttons and stepping in and out of the car, at times making strange hand gestures. Amateur sleuths, many of them in China, watched the video online and came up with various explanations for her behavior.

A recent episode of the ABC series “Castle” appeared to be based on Lam’s case, as it involved a student found dead in the rooftop water tank of a seedy hotel. Some observers said the dramatization was in questionable taste, with added details such as blood coming out of the plumbing in the guest rooms.

Firefighters used cutting tools to gain access to Lam’s body and remove it. Public health officials reassured hotel guests that the water in the building was not going to make them sick.

A Bay Area resident who was staying at the hotel told The Rafu that she was “disgusted” to learn that she had brushed her teeth with water from the tank, but did not suffer any ill effects. She faulted the hotel management for not telling guests sooner what was going on. A couple later sued the hotel for giving them “water that had been contaminated by human remains and was not fit for human ingestion or to use to wash.”

Hotel employees said roof access doors were locked and had alarms, but the four water tanks were not locked, police said.

The roof was searched after Lam was reported missing, but it was unclear whether the tanks were checked, police said.

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