PALMDALE – Authorities on Friday said a man who was found dead inside a vehicle that was swamped by mud during the storm that slammed the Antelope Valley last week died of drowning.
The body of 49-year-old Robert Michael Rasmussen of Palmdale was discovered around 12:50 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 20, inside a minivan that was buried in a culvert in the 41800 block of Karen Drive in Palmdale. Rasmussen’s body was found when crews dug the vehicle out.
An autopsy determined that Rasmussen died of drowning, and his death has been classified as an accident, said coroner’s Assistant Chief Ed Winter.
Sheriff’s officials said Tuesday the minivan was spotted by a public works employee trying to clear the basin. Residents insisted, however, that they had been pushing authorities to search the area since the Oct. 15 storm, saying they saw a vehicle get swept away during the rainstorm that slammed the Antelope Valley and sent lava-like flows of mud through area streets.
One resident told ABC7 she called 911 on the day of the storm to report a vehicle caught in a debris flow and then disappearing. She said she told a dispatcher the vehicle floated for about five minutes, then sank into the debris flow.
Palmdale City Manager James Purtee said authorities responded to the report, but could not find the vehicle. He said search crews were using 3-foot-long metal poles to probe the mud for any signs of a buried vehicle, but Rasmussen’s minivan was buried by about six feet of mud.
Search crews “did the best they could do under these emergency conditions,” he said.
Relatives said Rasmussen was house-sitting in Palmdale for his parents, who were visiting Israel. Rasmussen’s mother, Virginia Driscoll, and her 24-year-old son visited the scene on Wednesday.
“It must have happened so quick,” Driscoll told ABC7 at the scene.
She fought back tears as she remembered her son.
“Everybody has a certain amount of time here, and apparently this was his time to go,” Driscoll said. “I’ll miss him very much.”
Authorities on Oct. 20 explain how the body was found
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