Speculation continues to pile up around the death of Emma Nahas, now four days after her body washed ashore in Euclid. The 20-year-old local went missing in early July after going overboard on a party boat packed with underage girls and older guys. Rumors have been swirling and the steady beat of press coverage — particularly from the folks over at 19ActionNews, who have dubbed the incident, the “Mystery on Lake Erie” — has implied there may have been more to the girl’s death than a bad swim. Today, however, investigators reported there is no sign of foul play.
On July 8, Nahas and seven others boarded a 48-foot cabin cruiser belonging to Alex Cucu, a 36-year-old Willoughby businessman. That night Cucu’s cell phone placed a 911 call asking for assistance; a passenger had gone missing, the caller reported. When the Coast Guard arrived on the scene, the passengers said Nahas had taken a swim in the lake with 31-year-old John Slyman; a storm suddenly came in, and before anybody realized what had happened, Nahas disappeared in the water.
On Tuesday, after an exhaustive search, a body was spotted on the Euclid coast. The corpse matched Nahas’ description and was found wearing an orange bikini — the last clothing the girl was seen in. The body was officially identified a day later. Officials from the Cuyahoga Coroner’s Office told Scene the preliminary cause of death is accidental drowning. A full report, complete with toxicology results, will take a few weeks.
The mood on the boat seems to have been fun in the sun, boozin’ and cruisin’, according to first-hand accounts reported in the media. The Chronicle-Telegram spoke with one of the girls on board, 19 year-old Kelsey Silvestra. The girl, who hadn’t met Nahas before that day, told the paper the passengers had been drinking and having a good time until everyone realize the girl was MIA.
“We were dancing and the music was up,” she told the paper. “I didn’t notice she was not on the boat.”
Cucu has been cited for operating the boat while under the influence. When Scene talked to the Coast Guard, representatives said the citation was handed out on the night of the disappearance. The offense normally involves a mail-in fine. ActionNews19 also unearthed Cucu’s previous run-ins with law enforcement, including a DUI and attempted forgery rap; another man on board also had a criminal record, but nothing violent.
Nahas was reportedly living in Cleveland at the time of her death. Originally from Cuyahoga Falls, she attended Our Lady of the Elms from kindergarten up until the tail end of her senior year, when she transferred Midview High School, according to the Falls News Press. She split her time working at Powerhouse Gyms in Elyria and North Olmsted, and as a ring girl for mixed martial arts events.
Beautiful underage girls, older men, a party yacht, apparent drinking — this is literally a standard day at the beach, realistically speaking. But when those ingredients add up to a death, the situation becomes tabloid-ready. So far, the media coverage has trucked in a fair amount of suspicion, loading up the incident with ominous undertones. Whether this is a freak tragedy or others deserve to bear some responsibility, we can only hope Nahas’ family will get some answers soon.
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