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Aquatic Death and Homicidal Drowning Investigation

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2022

This report is a brief overview of the content of a class intended to fill gaps in knowledge regarding resources to use when investigating a death that occurred in water (“aquatic death”).


The training course from which this instructional material is drawn was hosted by the Longmont Department of Public Safety (Colorado) as an “Aquatic Death and Homicidal Drowning Investigation.”  The 3-day course was led by a certified diver, expert witness, published author, and notable public speaker, who had almost 20 years of experience with aquatic death investigations. The course objective was to educate death investigators, law enforcement personnel, dive team members, and other relevant stakeholders on the proper methods to use when investigating an aquatic death scene. The information provided in the current report is a brief overview of the content presented during this class and should not be regarded as a sole source of information regarding the investigation of aquatic death scenes. This review of class material notes that the information covered throughout the course provided participants with procedures and tactics to assess and answer three questions, along with many other concerns that are crucial in determining the cause and manner of the death. The three questions are 1) Does it make sense that the victim was in the water? 2) Do the location and physical state of the victim and reporting parties make sense? 3) Does it make sense that the victim did not survive the immersion or submersion into water? Although these are not the only questions that should be asked during an investigation, they constitute a good starting point and can help the investigator consider all information and keep an open mind when assessing the scene.

Date Published: April 15, 2022