Announcer’s voice: “We interrupt our regularly scheduled post on Lake Havasu to bring you a more pressing issue. The post on Lake Havasu will air shortly. No posts will be missed.”
You won’t find Slab City, California on a Google map. A place in the middle of the southern California desert, it is not recognized by the government as a city or town. There are no sidewalks, no electrical power lines, and there’s no running water. From November to April approximately 3,000 snowbirding RVers arrive to camp out the winter. There are an estimated 100 year-round residents.
It’s a land with no rules where the residents rely on a code of honor. Not everyone is honorable.
For all it lacks in amenities, Slab City, aka “The Slabs”, has quite a bit to offer: two libraries, two night clubs, two churches, several kitchens providing free meals, and five social clubs. There’s an 18-hole golf course, although the back nine are a bit rough. There’s a hot springs pool and a “shower”. The shower is the drainage-ditch runoff that comes out of the hot springs.
I’ve been golfing everyday on the grassless sand and gravel course. My golf buddies and I are most appreciative to Bob and Nancy Unden, a couple from San Diego who built the wonderful 18-holed oasis in the desert.
But from now on I’ll stay far away from the hot springs.
Last week, even though the water looked rather murky, my camp mates convinced me to take a dip. The water turned out to be lovely at a toasty 107 degrees.
This past Saturday we planned to go in again.
The gals and I arrived at the Hot Springs only to find it surrounded by crime scene tape and emergency vehicles. When I asked a deputy what was going on, he was downright rude and refused to say anything other than they were conducting an investigation.
He said this as they were rolling up all remnants of the crime scene tape, leaving no trace of the mysterious event.
However, the same deputy freely gave information to a local reporter taking copious notes and to a Slab City resident, both at the scene.
The Slab City resident immediately told us a dead body was found in the hot springs, and provided the name of the deceased. It wasn’t someone any of us knew, but one of our camp mates did.
The EMT on scene recommended not going in the water for a couple months.
Me, in my head: Yeah, or the rest of my life.
Thirty-year-old Karl W. had been submerged under the water for approximately 14 hours while others unknowingly soaked in the hot springs right over him. The EMT told me something I never before considered: ‘They sink before they float’.
Most surprising to me is many people are unconcerned with the quality of the water and are already going back in. Sorry, but I paid attention in microbiology and have seen the myriad of things that live in so-called “clean” water. Never mind murky water that dead bodies have been soaking in at 107 degrees. Overnight.
The deputies removed all traces of their investigation. No signs are posted at the hot springs recommending staying out of the water.
The cause of death is yet unknown, but an autopsy is scheduled for today. According to two Slab City residents Karl was allegedly on drugs and alcohol when he went into the hot springs Friday night.
However, he had also been the target of several beatings a couple nights before. No two people seem to have the same version of that night’s events, but it’s rumored the attempt to burn some one out of their trailer is related to the altercations.
Because of the beatings he received, the sheriff suspects foul play might have been involved in Karl’s death. But their efforts to keep the focus of their investigation quiet are in vain as there are few secrets in Slab City, the land with no rules.
UPDATE: This post has generated an extreme amount of traffic from those looking for information on Karl’s death, much of which is coming from his home state of Pennsylvania. While my blog usually leans towards the humorous, I recognize this is a serious subject. My heart goes out to his family and friends. There were apparently three memorial services for Karl in Slab City. He was well-liked. I hope you find some peace in knowing that.