LOS ANGELES — The mysterious death of the young woman whose body was found in a water tank on the roof of a cheap downtown hotel has been ruled accidental.
The Los Angeles County coroner’s office issued the ruling Thursday in the case of Elisa Lam, Lt. Fred Corral of the coroner’s investigations division said.
The cause of death was listed as accidental due to drowning, with bipolar disorder listed as a significant condition, he said.
Lam, 21, of Vancouver, British Columbia, was last seen at the Cecil Hotel near Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles on Jan. 31.
She was staying at the hotel while on a holiday trip to California. Her body was found Feb. 19 in a water tank on the roof of the building. Authorities had searched the roof earlier during an investigation into her disappearance but did not open the four cisterns on the roof.
The body was discovered by a hotel worker checking out complaints of weak water pressure in the 15-story building. She was found in one of four 8-foot tall, 4-foot diameter tanks with unlocked openings at the top.
A surveillance video tape of Lam behaving oddly in a hotel elevator had triggered widespread speculation and conspiracy theories about her death on the Internet. Her case had drawn high interest in China, where the video went viral, and other Asian countries as well as the United States and Canada.
The coroner’s office initially said that an autopsy in February had proven inconclusive and that it was awaiting toxicology test before establishing a cause of death.
Those test results were initially expected to take six to eight weeks to complete, but coroner’s spokesman Ed Winter said earlier this month in response to queries that the office was still awaiting complete testing results.
Corral said no other information on the cause of death or condition of the woman’s body was being released.
Authorities including police and the coroner have not stated how they believe Lam got into the tank. Law enforcement officials had been careful to say that the death could be accidental, despite widespread public suspicions of foul play.
The hotel has a checkered past. Some of the conspiracy theories floated online invoked the history of deaths and mystery at the hotel, which marketed itself as cheap lodging for international tourists but also rented rooms for long-term residents.
“Night Stalker” Richard Ramirez, who died of cancer June 7 while on death row for 13 slayings in the 1980s, lived on the hotel’s 14th floor for several months in 1985, NBCLosAngeles.com reported. In 1962, a female occupant jumped out of a hotel window, killing herself and a pedestrian.
Police searching for Lam before the discovery of her body released the surveillance video showing her inside a hotel elevator, pushing buttons for multiple floors and at various times waving her arms and stepping out of the elevator. Internet forums and blogs were filled with speculation about her death, and some amateur detectives had gone to the hotel and posted video reports on how difficult it would be to climb to the roof and into the tank – or to carry a body to the roof and into a water tank.
After her body was found, city public health officials issued a do-not-drink order for the hotel’s water supply until the hotel drained, flushed and sanitized the water lines.