Coroner’s investigators have determined that 88-year-old Melvin Gelfand of Los Angeles was the man whose body was found in a car north of Castaic after another driver crash-landed on top of him.
Lt. Fred Corral of the county coroner’s office said Gelfand’s identity was established late Monday, following the completion of an autopsy. The identification was based on dental records, and the cause of death was listed as multiple blunt-force trauma – presumably sustained when Gelfand’s car plunged into a ravine off of Lake Hughes Road, 1.5 miles south of the Warm Springs Rehabilitation Center.
Gelfand had been reported missing to the Los Angeles Police Department on Sept. 15. He was last seen a day earlier at his home in the 2900 block of Tilden Avenue near the 405-10 Freeway interchange. Family members believed he was headed by bus to a casino in San Diego County. Instead, his body was found in the opposite direction 50 miles from his home.
The coroner’s office officially listed the time and date of death as Sept. 29 at 5:19 p.m. – but that’s when he was discovered. Officials from the California Highway Patrol had no way to know when he crashed and died. The circumstances of his collision are still under investigation.
According to a statement from Lake Hughes resident David Lavau, the body identified as Gelfand’s had been there “for some time” when Lavau’s car went over the same cliff in precisely the same location Sept. 23. Injured and unable to scale the nearly sheer-sided ravine walls, Lavau lived on leaves and creek water until his family members found him six days later.
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