A maintenance worker at the historic Cecil hotel in Los Angeles was just doing his job and checking on an issue with the hotel’s water supply when he made a grisly discovery: a dead body floating in one of the hotel’s rooftop water tanks!
Guests had been complaining about low water pressure, and when the maintenance worker went to go check on the hotel’s rooftop water tanks, he found the bloated corpse of 21-year-old college student Elisa Lam, who had been reported missing by her parents in early February. She was last seen acting “bizarrely” in an elevator at the hotel on January 31st, L.A. police said.
Detectives are trying to determine whether Lam’s death was the result of foul play or an accident. But while they try to figure that out, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is said to be investigating whether or not the water that hotel staff and residents had been drinking, cooking with, and using to bathe and brush their teeth was contaminated … seeing as, you know, it did have a rotting corpse floating around in it for over two weeks.
“The water did have a funny taste, but we never thought anything of it,” Sabrina Baugh told CNN. She said she and her husband used the water for eight days and didn’t really worry about it because “we thought it was just the way it was here.”
But what Sabrina described was most certainly not the way we do things in America. “The shower was awful,” she said. “When you turned the tap on, the water was coming black first for two seconds and then it was going back to normal.”
Her husband Michael Baugh told the Associated Press, “The moment we found out, we felt a bit sick to the stomach, quite literally, especially having drank the water, we’re not well mentally.”
The $65-per-night hotel remained open after the gruesome discovery, but new guests checking in, as well as the ones already at the hotel, were urged to not drink the water
Meanwhile, police aren’t sure how Elisa Lam died or how she ended up in the water tank on the roof of the hotel, which is protected by locked doors and an alarm.
The firefighters who pulled the body out don’t know how it even got into the tank, since the opening at the top was too small to accommodate the firemen and their equipment, which forced them to cut a hole in the storage tank in order to recover the body.
In fact, in order to get to the tanks, hotel staffers explained that someone would have to go to the top floor of the building, where they would then take a staircase with a locked door and an emergency alarm preventing unauthorized roof access.
Another ladder would then have to be taken to the platform, and the person would have to climb up the side of the tank. Not to mention, that person would also be carrying a dead body while doing all of this.
The Cecil hotel was reportedly built in the 1920’s and was refurbished several years ago. Coincidentally, the hotel had also once been the occasional home of the infamous serial killers Richard Ramirez (nicknamed the “Night Stalker”) and Jack Unterweger. Austrian prison author Jack Unterweger, who was convicted of murdering nine prostitutes in Europe and the U.S. also stayed at that very same hotel.
But what about those unfortunately hotel guests who consumed the corpse water?
Well, fortunately for them, the purpose of a water tank is to filter nasty chemicals from water. So while the fact that people were consuming water contaminated with a rotting corpse is not only gross, but just plain creepy, DISGUSTING and very traumatizing … they shouldn’t be too concerned about their longterm health.
According to Dr. Kent Sepkowitz, an infectious-disease specialist from New York City, our stomachs are full of harsh acids that kill the bacteria we consume before it kills us. He wrote on The Daily Beast:
Furthermore, unless the woman was poisoned with anthrax or botulism or some other bacterial toxin that might be proliferating in her remains, the bacteria would not be lethal, just nauseating. I suspect that vomiting and a day or two of stomach misery would be the worst that would happen to the hotel guests, if that.
Good to know.