Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Last updated: 3 days ago

UBC student Elisa Lam found dead in L.A. hotel water tank

The Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles. Photo Anika Malone/flickr

The Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles. Photo Anika Malone/flickr

Los Angeles police have found the body of missing UBC student Elisa Lam.

A worker found her body in a water tank on the roof of L.A.’s Cecil Hotel while looking into a complaint about low water pressure last Tuesday, according to the L.A. Times.

Lam, a 21-year old UBC student, was last seen Jan. 31 in the Cecil Hotel. She was reported missing on Feb. 1. Her autopsy has been completed, but investigators have yet to determine how she died. The L.A. coroner’s office hasn’t revealed if there were signs of trauma on Lam’s body.

Police are waiting for the results of a drug test to help determine the cause of Lam’s death. The results won’t be available for six to eight weeks.

Surveillance footage from the hotel on the day of Lam’s disappearance showed her acting strangely in the hotel’s elevator. She pressed the buttons for multiple floors, waved her arms around and looked around the hallway outside the elevator.

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Elisa Lam. Photo courtesy LAPD

Police are still unsure how Lam got onto the hotel’s roof in the first place. L.A. police Sgt. Rudy Lopez told the Associated Press that the door to the roof is kept locked and only hotel employees have the key. The door also has an alarm to alert employees if someone is on the roof. Lopez said the only other way to gain access to the roof is by climbing the fire escape.

Police haven’t determined how long Lam’s body was in the water tank. Shortly after she was reported missing, investigators checked the roof of the hotel with police dogs. The found no signs of her, but did not look inside the hotel’s water tanks.

The Cecil Hotel, which offers cheap rooms, is located close to the low-income L.A. neighbourhood known as Skid Row.

“That part of downtown Los Angeles is not good,” said LAPD spokesperson Robert French shortly after Lam was reported missing. “There is crime, there is squalor there, among many things.”

UBC spokesperson Randy Schmidt confirmed that Lam took courses at UBC last summer, but she wasn’t registered for any classes this term. A profile of Lam’s on the website academia.edu says she studied psychology.

Health officials have issued an order not to drink the water in the hotel, but tests haven’t found any disease-causing bacteria in the hotel’s water supply. Residents of the hotel drank water from the tank containing Lam’s body for weeks. Health officials have asked the hotel to drain its water supply and flush out the pipes before another round of testing to declare the water safe to drink.

Los Angeles police have been reluctant to release details about Lam’s death, as their investigation is still ongoing.

With files from Andrew Bates