An investigation is ongoing after a 55-gallon plastic drum seen by a Malibu Lagoon State Beach lifeguard Monday turned out to contain a dead man, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department announced.
The lifeguard, unnamed by law enforcement, noticed the barrel floating in the lagoon off Malibu Beach at 10:10 a.m. After he swam out and retrieved the barrel, he opened it due to its suspicious weight, finding inside a naked, deceased adult Black man.
The body had not undergone significant decomposition, law enforcement said, and it’s thought the man inside died recently. Authorities also theorize that, given that high tide occurs at 8 p.m. at the beach, the barrel could have been washed in from farther afield in the open ocean.
The barrel was first spotted by a maintenance worker Sunday night.
“They got in a kayak to get it and brought it to shore. Apparently it was too heavy and they didn’t want to open it, so they left it on shore,” LASD Lt. Hugo Reynaga said at a news conference.
Afterward, the barrel was washed back into the lagoon by the tides.
Earlier in the day Monday, the barrel had been seen north of where the lifeguard spotted it by former Malibu Mayor Jefferson Wagner.
Mr. Wagner has been the owner of the local Zuma Jay Surf Shop for decades and said this is the first time he can remember this happening in Malibu.
“I thought it was a toxic waste container when I saw it. This is not what happens in Malibu. … This is not a common occurrence. I mean, bodies in a barrel is just sad,” Mr. Wagner told the Los Angeles Times, adding that he was “deeply disturbed.”
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