Autopsy results for Elisa Lam inconclusive, more tests needed
Published Thursday, February 21, 2013 9:29AM PST
Last Updated Thursday, February 21, 2013 7:48PM PST
An autopsy on Elisa Lam’s body has come back inconclusive, and authorities say it could be two more months before additional tests shed light on how she died.
A Los Angeles coroner revealed Thursday that toxicology tests are being conducted but results could take six to eight weeks.
Until then, the circumstances of Lam’s untimely passing remain a mystery. Investigators have said they cannot yet determine whether the 21-year-old Vancouver woman was met with foul play or the victim of a bizarre circumstance.
Sources close to the case told the Los Angeles Times newspaper that her death may have been accidental.
Meanwhile, guests who showered and brushed their teeth at the Cecil Hotel where Lam’s body was discovered in a water tank are being told they don’t need to worry about falling ill.
Tests have revealed no sign of harmful bacteria in the tank atop the hotel where Lam was found on Tuesday. Officials believe chlorine may have prevented anything dangerous from reaching guests.
The county Department of Public Health has still issued a do-not-drink order at the hotel, and guests currently only have running water in their toilets.
The search for the missing University of British Columbia student came to a sudden and tragic end Tuesday when the young woman’s body was found in the rooftop water tank, near a notorious neighbourhood dubbed Skid Row, where drug use and homelessness are rampant.
The young woman was identified by markings on her body.
Lam travelled by herself to California four days before her disappearance on Jan. 31. She phoned her family every day until she disappeared without a trace.
Her body was found Tuesday by a hotel maintenance worker who was checking the water tank after complaints about low water pressure.
British tourist Michael Baugh and his wife said water had only trickled for days as they brushed their teeth, showered and drank from the taps at the Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, but they could not have imagined the disturbing reason.
"The moment we found out, we felt a bit sick to the stomach, quite literally," Baugh said.
Terrance Powell, a director coordinating the department's response, said fecal contamination was the biggest concern as the water was also used for cooking in the hotel; a coffee shop in the hotel remains closed and has been instructed to sanitize its food equipment before reopening.
Powell said the hotel hired a water treatment specialist after the department required it to do so to disinfect its plumbing lines.
By mid-day Wednesday, the Cecil Hotel had relocated 27 rooms used by guests to other hotels, but 11 rooms remained filled. People who chose to stay were required to sign a waiver in which they acknowledged being informed of the health risks. They were provided bottled water.
Lam’s family first contacted the RCMP about their missing daughter, and the Canadian force contacted the L.A. Police Department.
While there are about 3,200 missing person cases in L.A. every year, police there handled Lam's case differently because it’s an international case.
The missing student’s parents and sister flew to Los Angeles to attend a press conference about her disappearance on Feb. 6, but haven’t spoken publically.
The reason Lam went to California is unclear, but authorities say Lam intended to travel to Santa Cruz as her final destination, which is about 563 kilometres north of Los Angeles.
With files from The Associated Press