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Studies on Weighted Bodies?

Discussion in 'Ideas and Stories' started by sciencegeek, Aug 17, 2004.

  1. sciencegeek

    sciencegeek Guest

    Does anyone know of any studies done on bodies that were anchored or weighted to conceal underwater? I have checked with the Navy and some local law enforcement agencies and no one can recall a scientific study that would account for bloating and decomposition. If anyone knows of one, please let me know. Thanks!
  2. Wendy

    Wendy Divemaster

    There is a place in Tenn that studies bodies in different environments, but I am not sure if they study bodies in water. Its called the Body Farm. You may want to contact them.

    Also I know there is a book about water fatalities and such but don't know the name of it, its a law enforcement training book. Maybe some of the PSD on here will have more info.
  3. DA Aquamaster

    DA Aquamaster Directional Toast ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: NC
    I don't know of any definitive studies but the general guidelines we have ascribed to have been that a body will not float unless water temps are at least 60 degrees.

    Below that point decomposition and the development of gases related to bacterial action is not fast enough to cause the body to bloat, and consequently float, and using divers to search for and recover the body is going to be neccesary.

    Depth also is a factor as increased depth means increased pressure which causes the gases developed through decomposition to compress, reducing the potential for the body to refloat. Essentially, you need a lot more decomposition to get the same amount of lift at depth

    Around here with lakes to 150 ft deep and water temps at the bottom that never rise above the mid 40's, bodies just won't float. When they mention that "Superior never gives up her dead" in the "Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald" that is exactly what they are talking about. The 60 degree temp is not exactly research based but rather is based on historical observations of when and where bodies have and have not floated.

    Body composition is another factor as adipose tissue is more bouyant than denser bone and muscle tissue and also tends to decompose at a faster rate creating more gas and more potential to refloat.

    My understanding is that in warm water, large intact bodies from obese individuals can become very bouyant during decomposition and lift close to 300 lbs. I suspect most criminals probably under estimate the weight requirements by a large margin. A few cinder blocks is just not going to do the job for very long.

    Also how much air is in the persons lungs makes a difference in how fast a person may initially sink. We had a slender teenage boy get hit by a jet ski and sink very quickly as the impact essentially deflated his lungs.

    What you eat can also have an impact on if you float soon after drowning with some foods releasing more gas than others. How long it was since you ate also makes a difference as it relates to where the food is in the digestive tract.
  4. Scubakevdm

    Scubakevdm ScubaBoard Sponsor ScubaBoard Sponsor

    Just what is it that you're planning? Hey ... wait a minute! That's it, I am not going to be able to make that night dive you set up at the Miller Farm Pond next weekend.
  5. cowprintrabbit

    cowprintrabbit Barracuda

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: Denver, CO
    Not that this is a huge amount of help, but I seem to remember a study mentioned recently in connection with the Scott/Laci Peterson case going on in CA... I would Google it for you, but I have 4 minutes left on this computer before I have to catch a bus home :D
  6. DA Aquamaster

    DA Aquamaster Directional Toast ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: NC
    There is another trial, in Florida I think, of a hubby whose wife was found floating just off the family dock with a couple of cinder blocks that just happen to match some used in the landscaping. I am sure the prosecuter there has an expert witness or two who will eventually be speaking on decomposition rates etc.
  7. Rick Murchison

    Rick Murchison Trusty Shellback Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: Gulf of Mexico
    I suggest you contact Auburn University's Criminology Department. As they're right next door to the School of Veterinary medicine they are uniquely situated to get the answer for you.
  8. Kriterian

    Kriterian Solo Diver

    Wendy is right (as usual), the "Body Farm" is another name for the "Anthropology Research Center" which is located near the Univ. of Tennesee medical center.

    There is a book about it's studies, and they did alot on bodies in water as this was the most common way to dispose of a body.

    I believe the book was called "Death's Acre". I'm sure you can find it on Amazon.com

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