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Hotel guests horrified after tourist's body is found in water tank

February 21, 2013 |  7:28 am

Photo: Authorities gathered on the roof of the Cecil Hotel on Main Street following the discovery of a body in the hotel's water tank on Tuesday. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

Guests of a downtown hotel where missing Canadian tourist Elisa Lam was found dead in a rooftop water tank expressed horror at the discovery.

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?"

As authorities were searching for clues at the scene of the discovery Monday evening, Pippa Beaumont, 26, of South Africa was rushing out of the hotel with her luggage in tow.

She had planned to stay at the hotel but decided not to when she learned a body had been found in one of the hotel's water tanks.

"I was supposed to check in but not anymore. I'm a bit freaked out; I'm traveling alone," she said.

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 reporting 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 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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Photo: On the roof of the Cecil Hotel after a body was found in a hotel water tank on Tuesday. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

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