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After tourist is found dead in tank, hotel's water supply is tested

February 21, 2013 | 12:00 pm

County health officials are testing the water at a downtown Los Angeles hotel after Canadian tourist Elisa Lam was found dead in a rooftop water tank.

Guests said they believe they drank and washed with water from the tank while Lam's body was inside.

The L.A. County Department of Public Health is performing tests on the water and is expected to have results later Thursday.

The department also issued a do-not-drink order on Tuesday.

Lam's body was discovered by a worker at the Cecil Hotel checking out complaints of weak water pressure, police said.

"I'm really disgusted," said Annette Suzuki, a San Francisco resident staying at the hotel. "Wouldn't you be if there was a dead body in the water tank you're drinking from?"

Sources close to the investigation who spoke on condition of anonymity because the case was ongoing said Lam's death might have been accidental. Detectives were looking for any signs of trauma on her body or other clues at the hotel. An autopsy was planned Thursday.

Lam, 21, had traveled to California from Vancouver on Jan. 26, was last seen Jan. 31 at the hotel, authorities said.

Los Angeles County coroner's spokesman Ed Winter said investigators were still trying to determine how and why Lam got in the water tank and had "no idea" yet how long she may have been inside.

She was reported missing about three weeks ago. Her reasons for coming to California were unclear, but police said they believe her ultimate destination was Santa Cruz. Detectives have not discussed her exact movements or whether she had visited anyone here.

Last week police released video of Lam inside a Cecil Hotel elevator. In the surveillance footage, Lam is seen pushing buttons for multiple floors and at one point stepping out of the elevator, waving her arms.

Investigators searched the roof of the hotel with the aid of dogs when Lam was first reported missing. Sgt. Rudy Lopez said he didn't know if the tanks were examined.

"We did a very thorough search of the hotel," he said. "But we didn't search every room; we could only do that if we had probable cause" that a crime had been committed.

A locked door that only employees have access to and a fire escape are the only ways to get to the roof. The door is equipped with an alarm system that notifies hotel personnel if it is opened, Lopez said.


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