Death Fall Forensic - Can a body falling from 13.3m height land 3.5m away?

Discussion in 'General Information & Discussion' started by Qrious, Sep 20, 2020.

  1. Qrious

    Qrious Active Member

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    Hi.

    I have this nagging question from an actual case 11 years ago in 2009 at a hotel in Singapore. The circumstances in this case are very strange.

    A newly-wed bridegroom fell to his death just a few hours after the end of his wedding dinner. CCTV footage showed him leaving his honeymoon suite on the 10th floor at 3:08 am and heading towards the fire exit stairway. He left without the knowledge of his wife who was in the shower. He was barefoot and clad only in a white singlet and checkered shorts, and was supposedly in a half intoxicated state.

    There were no CCTV in the stairwell above the fifth floor. Next, CCTV from the fifth floor down caught him going towards the ground floor and the basement. He descended the stairwell at a steady pace with his arms folded across his chest.

    He tried to open the exit doors at the ground floor and the basement without success. Next he turned towards a corner in the basement where a service lift was. The service lift was not in use at that time and was not in the sight of the CCTV. The lights were also not on there.

    He was out of sight in the service lift area for some 4 minutes. When he reappeared in the stairwell, he seemed to be in a panic. He scrambled up the stairs two steps at a time, using both hands to grab the railings on each side. He seemed to be in urgency to look for a way out.

    Fatefully at the 4th floor, there was a door ajar. But it was not the exit door. The door led to a machine room where some wiring works were being done. It was left propped open with a metal rod to prevent wires from being crushed. It was dark inside.

    By this time, the wife had found him missing from their room and had alerted security, who started searching for him. A guard entering the stairwell from the ground floor saw a hand on the railing between the 4th and 5th floor. He called out but received no response.

    Next, CCTV at the hotel driveway recorded the man falling onto the driveway at 3:25 am. The body bounced once from the impact and landed partly on its side.

    At the inquest held a year later, the court heard that CCTV at the hotel rooftop on the 24th floor did not record the man there, implying that he did not go to the rooftop which was accessible to guests because there was a pool there. The court surmised that the man must have entered the machine room on the 4th floor when he found the door ajar. On the other side of the machine room, there was another door that opened up to a service roof (see attached pics). The service roof was not lit and had no railings, just a ledge 17 cm high and 13 cm wide. The court surmised that in the dark the man must have accidentally tripped over the ledge and fell to his death from the 4th floor rooftop.

    The drop from the service rooftop to the ground was stated at 13.3 metres. The body was reported to be about 3.5 metres from the front of the hotel, which is about right judging from photographs. Now, putting aside all the other strange circumstances, I wonder if it is really possible for the body to land 3.5 metres away if it was an accidental fall. I hope some experts here can provide insights. The man was about 1.75-1.78 m tall and likely around 75 kg.

    These two captures from google earth show the approximate spot where the body landed (red circle) and the presumed spot from the rooftop where he fell from (yellow circle):

    IMG_9953.jpg
    IMG_9952.jpg
     
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  2. Lilibet

    Lilibet Watching & Waiting

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    Translating from meters :)....

    He fell from almost 44 feet and landed about 11.5 feet from where it seems he started his fall. He was about 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighed about 165 pounds. Personally, knowing nothing about physics, I would think that tripping and falling off the ledge in the dark from 4 stories up would startle him and cause him to struggle and flail on the way down. So he probably didn’t fall straight down and could have traveled a distance from where his fall originated. Just amateur speculation though. Whether he could have traveled 11.5 feet/3.5 meters is better left to a math or physics whiz. It’s an intriguing question! Was there a question of foul play?

    How tragic for his wife, and for him, of course. :(
     
  3. AC's Grandma

    AC's Grandma Well-Known Member

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    I would agree with Lilibet as well as if the body was lying parallel to the building or not and if not, what part of the body they use to come up with 3.5 meters. It doesn't seem unreasonable to me in the least.
     
  4. Qrious

    Qrious Active Member

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    Thanks for your reply, @Lilibet

    I did do some research on falling and found this interesting article:

    http://seniorphysics.com/physics/AJP_V76(9)_falling.pdf

    It's quite technical, but using the rough formulae given, I calculated that the fall took 1.65 sec and that the man had to jump off at a horizontal launch speed of 2.12 m/s. Struggling or flailing on the way down would not change the angle of fall, I believe.

    The article also says that just by falling at zero horizontal speed, the body would still land about 1 metre away. So I think that to land 3.5 metres away, it would not be possible if the guy had just accidentally fallen off. He could have actually ran towards the edge and jumped off. Though the roof was unlit, the lights from the street and surrounding buildings could still make the ledge visible.

    So it would be great if experts here can contribute their views on this.
     
  5. Qrious

    Qrious Active Member

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    The 3.5 meter distance was mentioned in one report without details. It seems correct or at least that distance judging from this photo below. The driveway is more than two car widths and the body was lying close to the far side of the driveway.

    IMG_9938.jpg
     
  6. Tbone144

    Tbone144 Well-Known Member

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    I can do some of the physics tomorrow if someone hasn’t solved it. There are trajectory calculators out there that makes the math fairly easy. If you want to play around with it. Should be able to tell you under what conditions he could have landed at that distance away (his speed and angle). You have two givens, height he fell and where he landed. Weight won’t play into it, his height slightly in that he fell forward (in theory). If he was walking in the dark he wouldn’t have been going very fast. Tomorrow I’ll play around with it on paper.

    edited for a link to a calculator, just make sure your units are correct:
    Trajectory Calculator - Projectile Motion
     
  7. Lilibet

    Lilibet Watching & Waiting

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    BBM

    “Quite technical” is above my pay grade so I’m happy to leave it to those who know what they’re doing! That’s interesting to know that flailing is not a factor. I look forward to seeing what the experts come up with.

    To my math-phobic mind, this problem might as well be like this pandemic joke:

    2020 as a math problem....
    If you’re going down the river at 2mph and your canoe loses a wheel, how much pancake mix would you need to re-shingle your roof? :D
     
  8. musicaljoke

    musicaljoke Well-Known Member

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    This is intriguing. Would you be willing to tell us more about this case?

    It seems to me that he didn't simply trip over the ledge, but that there was more energy behind his fall, as though he took a run at it. jmo.

    This odd description reminds me very much about another case with similar behaviour leading to a tragic death. The body of Elisa Lam, also known by her Cantonese name, Lam Ho Yi (藍可兒; April 30, 1991 – February 2013), a Canadian student at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, was recovered from a water tank atop the Cecil Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles on February 19, 2013.

    Death of Elisa Lam - Wikipedia
     
  9. Qrious

    Qrious Active Member

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    Yes, Elisa Lam's case but that could still be attributed to her bipolar condition.

    It's my opinion too that an accidental fall couldn't result in where he landed. And this guy was heavy so a perpetrator would need considerable force to push or throw him out. Besides, there was no indication he had antagonised anyone or that he was being followed. Which leaves the only possibility that he made a run for it. That would of course be really bizarre.

    Let's wait for some experts' views in case there are other possibilities.

    A more similar case would be Kenneka Jenkins, I think. It is also a case of an individual in a stupor wandering alone in a hotel, then ending in a strange death.
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2020
  10. Tbone144

    Tbone144 Well-Known Member

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    So I played with the calculator a bit. I kept the angle of launch low. He didn’t just step out and drop straight down if he had forward momentum but I’m assuming he didn’t jump up into the air, ie take a running leap up and out. From that height with a fairly low angle of launch (12•) he would have to have been moving at 4.5 mph to get about 11 feet out from the building. That’s a fairly good clip but if he was panicking and running it’s possible it seems. Angle of launch is less important than speed at which he was moving forward.

    I’ll also add I haven’t done true physics in about 25 years so my values are just estimates and I’m open to being corrected.
    MOO

    Edited to add, I think it would be terribly difficult to throw an adult (dead weight) at 4.5 mph versus having one run off the building. If a body was dropped, the initial velocity is 0 and you wouldn’t have an angle of launch. The only acting force would be gravity and you would have little to no trajectory. If the body was thrown up into the air and at sufficient speed you could get it out there but I’m not sure who could throw and adult male with angle and speed (imagine football).
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2020
  11. musicaljoke

    musicaljoke Well-Known Member

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    The man was seen taking stairs two at a time, as though he was in a hurry, so it is conceivable that he walked quite quickly over the edge of the building. What a sad thing when his wedding night should have been so special. He must have been well for the wedding ceremony since a wedding can't proceed if the bride or groom is intoxicated. Could he have consumed something at the reception that made him hallucinate? Was someone playing a trick on him, thinking this would be funny? So many questions.
     
  12. Qrious

    Qrious Active Member

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    Thanks.

    I just happened to dig out an old newspaper report that says that after the body bounced up, it landed a distance of a body length away from the point of initial impact. So, that might explain why the body was 3.5 metres away from the vertical.

    But then won't that also imply that there was still forward momentum carried over from the point of fall for the body not to land back at the same spot of initial impact? I think it is likely that he rushed forward after exiting the machine room and then tripped over the ledge, causing him to somersault forward, thus accounting for the forward momentum.
     
  13. musicaljoke

    musicaljoke Well-Known Member

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    Would you be comfortable sharing more about this case? I am interested in reading the old newspaper report too. But, I completely understand if you prefer not to.
     
  14. Qrious

    Qrious Active Member

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    The pathologist only stated that the alcohol level was double the legal limit at 161/100 ml. No other substances mentioned.

    The wedding dinner ended at 10:30 pm and then the couple retired to their room at about 11 pm, followed by eight friends. They drank more and smoked in the room. The friends told police the groom was a little high but added he was a good drinker.

    The friends left at 1 am and then the groom changed clothes and lay on the bed while the wife tidied up her stuffs. At about 2:30 am, the wife went to the bathroom to remove her makeup. While doing so, the husband came in to pee but he peed into the bathtub instead of the WC. Then he went out of the bathroom. The wife assumed he went back to bed.

    When the wife was taking a shower, she heard a thud sound from the main door closing. She assumed the husband was checking that the main door was closed fully. That was when the husband left the room.

    So, yeah, maybe the husband was already quite intoxicated when he left the room. But that opens up questions, why would someone feeling drunk want to go out for no apparent reason? Wouldn't most people just lie down in bed?

    He did not put on footwear and did not first inform his newly-wed wife first. So maybe he was really drunk. But then the next CCTV footage showed him going down the stairs steadily. He didn't have to hold the railings for support. Instead his arms were folded across his chest as if he was feeling cold or unease. Would a drunk person go down a flight of stairs in this manner?
     
  15. Qrious

    Qrious Active Member

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    Oh sure. I can share as much as I know. I have added some details above. Do ask me where you would like to have more deatails. :)
     
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  16. JudgeJoe

    JudgeJoe Well-Known Member

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    Well you all have me fascinated. The odd behavior of the groom before the fall would make me think Ambien or some other drug. Of course I’d assume no sleeping pill on a wedding night, but one never knows. Was a tox report ever published? There was a case on WS last year where a woman at a hotel in FL exhibited similar behavior in hallways & stairwells, then walked off a ledge on the intercoastal and drowned. Toxicology confirmed Ambien. @Lilibet & I are at the same pay grade, so I’m no help with the physics of the night. And @Tbone144, you’ve been hiding talents from us. Glad you’re on the case. Has anyone called Grissom? This seems like one of those experiments for CSI- but for the heartbreaking reality of it.
     
  17. drama_farmer

    drama_farmer Central Kentucky (Bluegrass)

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    I'd be interested to know if his use of the bathtub as a toilet was a regular occurrence for him.

    His behavior suggests a form of sleepwalking (fugue-like) exacerbated by alcohol/etc.

    I'll never forget the night my college roommate woke up to go to the restroom but ended up squatting over our small wastebasket and peeing into it. She had no memory of it, and there was no dog to blame. Imo
     
  18. JudgeJoe

    JudgeJoe Well-Known Member

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    Yes! Sleepwalking. That’s what the woman in FL did while on Ambien. Some ODD & at times dangerous behavior during sleepwalking. Imo
     
  19. Steph8angels

    Steph8angels Eye in the Sky

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    @Qrious
    stated in your 1st post......
    He was out of sight in the service lift area for some 4 minutes.


    I am interested in what may have been playing out the 4 minutes before in the service lift area (off CCTV range) then running 2 stairs at a time going back up. Actually you stated he was going back up faster (stairwell) then when he descended 4 to 5 minutes earlier.

    My condolences to the bride, and family.
     
  20. Qrious

    Qrious Active Member

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    @JudgeJoe @drama_farmer

    The father told police there was no history of him sleepwalking. Also the papers never reported about any finding in the inquest in relation to drugs, so I assumed there was none other than intoxication.

    I think he peed into the bathtub only because of intoxication.
     

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