Man's Body Found Inside Minivan Buried 6 Feet Under Mud
A man's body was discovered on Tuesday inside a minivan trapped six feet under mud in Palmdale, a death likely caused by the flash floods and mudflows that wreaked havoc in the Antelope Valley last week, officials say.
Today, the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office identified the victim as 49-year-old Robert Michael Rasmussen of Palmdale, according to CBS Los Angeles. His body was found around 12:50 p.m. on Tuesday when maintenance workers were clearing out mud and debris caused by last week's storm on the 41800 block of Karen Drive.
"As they began to dig further down, they discovered what appeared to be a human hand protruding from the vehicle," said Sheriff's Homicide Bureau Lt. Victor Lewandowski, according to the L.A. Times.
It took the authorities 11 hours to pull the minivan, which was buried in six feet of mud upside down and on its side, out of a retention basin.
Homicide investigators are looking into whether the death involved foul play or if it was the tragic result of the storm. The torrential rain from the story caused flash floods, trapping drivers in their cars in massive mudflows.Even though authorities didn't find the body until Tuesday, residents are saying that they notified authorities about the minivan as early as last Thursday. Donna, a witness who did not want to give her last name, told ABC 7 that she saw a van go underwater on Thursday. "It floated for about five minutes and then disappeared, and it was just very scary," Donna said. She called 9-1-1 to report the submerged van.
Several other local residents told NBC Los Angeles that they went up to firefighters to tell them about the van, and also called authorities over the weekend. Resident Stacey Horwood also told the TV news station that she made several 9-1-1 calls about it as well. "We've been standing there looking at it saying, 'somebody's in there,'" she said. "That's somebody's life. They drowned to death. They're underneath that ground and nobody took them out."
However, the L.A. County Sheriff's Department said it was too dangerous that day for crews to rescue the van, and that nobody reported the driver as missing.
"Obviously, if we had known there was a missing person this would have been an absolute top priority for public works, fire and sheriff's," said Palmdale City Manager James Purtee, according to ABC 7.