Detectives reveal how Elisa Lam died in Netflix documentary – and internet sleuths have finally accepted the cause of death
The Cecil Hotel certainly has an unfortunate past. In 2013, the body of Vancouver student, Elisa Lam, was found in one of the hotel's rooftop water tanks. For years, it was unclear what happened to the 21-year-old, and her mysterious death is the subject of a new Netflix docuseries, Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel.
In the series, detectives finally issue comment on the cause of Elisa Lam's death. And it appears that internet sleuths are finally placated...
Detectives reveal how Elisa Lam died in Netflix documentary
In episode four of the docuseries, it is revealed that the official cause of death was an accidental drowning, per the LA coroner's office. It's also suggested that Lam's bipolar disorder was a contributing factor.
Lam had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and depression. She had been prescribed a number of medications to treat the disorder, but had not been taking the correct dosage in the weeks leading up to her death.
Lam's sister told LAPD detective, Wallace Tennelle, that Lam took several medications: anti-depressant Wellbutrin, the anti-convulsant Lamotrigdine, and an anti-epileptic and mood stabilizer Quetiapine.
"My opinion is that she fell off her medication, and in her state, she happened to find her way onto the roof, got into the tank of water," Tennelle said in a deposition, according to CBC. "At the time, I think that water tank was maybe full. But as people used the tank, used water, unknown to her, the level was dropping to a point where she could no longer reach out and escape, and she died that way."
Internet sleuths react to Elisa Lam's cause of death
At the time, internet sleuths had other theories, which involved everything from murder to the paranormal. After watching the Netflix series, however, many have also come to the same conclusion as the detectives who investigated the case.
"After watching the doc series I'd definitely agree with the belief it was an accidental death due to bipolar disorder.
We all try to look for logic or someone to blame. But unfortunately, all too often our biggest enemy is living inside our head [sic]," wrote one Twitter user.
Another added: "I appreciate the way Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel ultimately cuts through the Creepypasta-like legacy of the case, arriving at the sad reality of Elisa Lam's tragic death. Lessons to be learned there about the way conspiracy theories thrive when the facts are ignored or unknown.
The whole Elisa Lam “mystery” infuriates me. A young woman in the midst of a mental health crisis fell into a water tank. That’s it," another sleuth wrote. "No amateur death metal murder, no tuberculosis cover-up. No demonic portals. The bookshop isn’t delivering to her grave."
Who was Elisa Lam?
Lam was a 21-year-old Canadian student who disappeared while staying at the Cecil in 2013.
After failing to get any leads, police released CCTV footage of her to encourage people to come forward with information. The video went viral because of Lam's actions.
While standing in an elevator, she can be seen behaving erratically, waving her arms, pushing buttons before appearing to try and hide.
Two weeks after the footage was released, Lam's body was found in a water tank on the top of the hotel. Staff were prompted to investigate the tank after guests complained about the discolouration of the water and a drop in pressure.
An autopsy revealed that there were no significant injuries on Lam's body. Further, the only drugs in her system were the medications she was prescribed for her bipolar disorder. No sign of sexual assault or rape were found.
Is the Cecil Hotel still open?
The Cecil Hotel is still open but is currently undergoing a refurbishment. In 2011, it underwent a rebrand and is now known as the Stay on Main Hotel.
The hotel was bought by its new owners for $26 million in 2007, and they gave it a $100 million renovation. Another substantial makeover of the Stay on Main was announced in 2016, and so the hotel shuttered its doors again.
The owners were still reportedly in the midst of getting permits and funding for the development in 2019. The initial plan was to have everything completed in October of 2021. However, due to delays caused by Covid-19, this seems unlikely.