Volume 47, Issue 1 (January 2002)
Bodies Found in the Waterways of New York City
We reviewed the case records for all decedents recovered from the waterways of New York City over a three year period (1997–2000). The epidemiological profile, circumstances, toxicology findings, putrefactive changes, date of recovery, length of immersion, and injuries were examined. There were 123 deaths: 52 suicides, 50 undetermined, 16 accidents, and five homicides. The causes of death included: 97 drownings, 13 undetermined, and 13 other. Of all the floating decedents, 27% were without putrefactive change. All found after two or more weeks of immersion were recovered from November to May. The detection of ethanol and illicit drugs was 53% in the accident, 41% in the suicide, and 33% in the undetermined groups. Detection of ethanol and/or drugs of abuse is not a reliable criterion to distinguish suicide from accident. The identification of the deceased is pivotal for determining the manner of these deaths. Therefore, a great reliance is placed upon the medical investigator and the police (including the missing persons bureau) to determine the circumstances and identification of the decedent.