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Woman Found Dead In Water Tank Deserves More Attention And Respect

Ashima Agrawal |
February 24, 2013 | 5:40 p.m. PST


Elisa Lam's body was found in the water tank of the Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. (Creative Commons)
Elisa Lam's body was found in the water tank of the Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. (Creative Commons)
How would you feel if you knew Elisa Lam, the 21-year-old Canadian who was found in the water tank of the Cecil Hotel, and all the media was talking about were the circumstances in which she was found? You would probably be very angry at the lack of respect shown for Lam, demonstrated by the media's focus on the contamination of the water and the guests’ reactions to the finding of her body, rather than on Lam herself.

Lam flew to California from Vancouver on January 26. Officials say that her intended destination seemed to be Santa Cruz in Northern California, but her reasons for coming to the state are still uncertain. Lam was last seen on January 31 in the hotel. Lam had been reported missing for three weeks before the hotel mechanic found her body in the water tank.

Although some guests are rightfully appalled at the fact that her body was found in the water and wish to express their concerns, I believe that there needs to be an air of respect in discussing this unfortunate situation. The media is paying more attention to the circumstances in which Lam was found, instead of why this happened in the first place.

This is most likely going to turn into a murder investigation. Lam was captured on the hotel surveillance system while she was in the hotel’s elevator, and in that recording it is obvious that she was distressed. She entered the elevator and pushed buttons for many of the floors. She then stepped out, quickly looking back and forth, then waving her arms about in a strange fashion. It seems obvious that she was frightened.

Apart from reporting on the contaminated water, the guests’ reactions and the hotel’s response to the finding of Lam's body, the only reports dealing directly with Lam's tragic death involve what the police have said about it. The police announced that her death involves very suspicious circumstances, given that the water cisterns in which her body was contained sit on a raised platform, ten feet tall, and therefore to reach the tanks would require a tall ladder.

What befuddles me is that the police searched the roof of the hotel soon after it was discovered that Lam was missing. In their search, they were even accompanied by dogs; yet, Sgt. Rudy Lopez of the Los Angeles police said that it is unknown if the tanks were even inspected. The water tanks, clearly large enough to contain a human body that had fallen or been thrown in, should have been the first place the police looked while searching the roof.

The public does have a right to be concerned about the potentially contaminated water. But Elisa Lam is the victim here, not the guests or the hotel, and she deserves the most attention.



Reach Contributor Ashima Agrawal here.


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Mataya (not verified) on June 14, 2013 6:09 AM

Thats so sad but did they ever find out how she got in there, in the first place?? I don't get it.

Anonymous (not verified) on March 23, 2013 1:16 PM

I can't help but wonder what she was thinking...

su deposu (not verified) on March 7, 2013 8:14 AM

it is water tank or su deposu. true?

Jean (not verified) on March 4, 2013 12:53 PM

I agree with most of the article. Where I differ is in Ms. Lam's behavior in the elevator. To me she appears coquettish, maybe had an alcoholic drink (or two) and wanted someone to join her on the elevator while it went slowly to the bottom (or upper) floor since she pushed all the bottons. She wanted some time with someone. I believe this is a murder case. Her almost childlike behavior with the elevator doesn't then mesh with an accident on the roof, especially with the height and opening size taken into account. I wish there were more articles on this case.

Anonymous (not verified) on June 20, 2013 10:15 PM

She is supposedly bipolar which might make her think someone was after her, maybe an individual[s]talked to her in the hotel, and she mistook their intentions, maybe she was murdered? my wife suffers from schizophrenia, she is afraid of cameras, all sorts of stuff I pray for her family and friends

Jim Rustles (not verified) on March 4, 2013 9:56 AM

"The water tanks, clearly large enough to contain a human body that had fallen or been thrown in, should have been the first place the police looked while searching the roof."

Anonymous (not verified) on March 2, 2013 6:01 PM

I have seen plenty of people on drugs and I can tell you she does not look like anyone I have ever seen that's on them. She does look like she is having a psychotic break from reality. Psychosis, not drugs. Security should have been called. Call security next time and avoid this.

Anonymous (not verified) on March 1, 2013 8:09 AM

She doesn't appear scared but is either under the influence of alcohol or a hallucinating drug because her gestures are slightly odd if you didn't notice she moves her hands in a peculiar way towards the end of the video and it even appears as if she's motioning to swim (1: she was found in a water tank). However, I also find it strange that news says the water tank was locked as well as the roof door and the fact that for some odd reason the elevator door would not close giving me the feeling someone was somehow causing that (2: someone had to have the keys; who could have control over the elevator). Why else would she look so abruptly to both sides at the beginning and continue to look around as if someone was lurking or knew she was under some sort of influence. Is there no cameras in the hallways?

John Roycroft (not verified) on February 27, 2013 4:33 PM

First of all, this girl does not appear to be frightened in any way. She gets on the elevator and presses every button with intent as if she wants it to stop at every floor. Maybe her way of confusing her hunter. Then she gets out, looks around and re-enters pressing the buttons again. The elevator doors won’t close. She stands in the corner and clearly, cracks a brief smile, and then walks back out. She is seen standing outside that elevator smiling, talking to someone while gesturing with her hands. Looks to me like she was playing, or at least trying to hide from someone in a playful manner. Perhaps she continued her game of hide and seek on the roof where she accidentally drowns herself after falling into the tank. It is entirely plausible. She absolutely does not appear to be frightened or in a panic like some have suggested. I may be going way out on a limb here, but I say the coroner report will come back that she was intoxicated and the investigators will rule no foul play. Accidental drowning.

Sachiko (not verified) on February 27, 2013 8:27 AM

Firstly, and sadly to say, if Ms. Lam were caucasian and from the similar socioeconomic background (college coed), there would have been a world of difference in coverage. But in spite of that fact, she is a human being. This was a tragic event and there doesn't seem to be the appropriate level of coverage or police investigation. She appeared to me to be confused in the video (perhaps hallucinating), but I'd be interested in what the toxicology reports return. There is an explanation, they have to be committed to finding it. Was she in the hostel area, why were the elevators not working, who were the guests on her floor-interview them, does she need to wear corrective lenses, are there long-term residents on her floor who could have been peddling drugs . . . there is so much to go by, if they cared!!!!!