Police investigating the deaths of 10-year-old schoolgirl Cho Yoo-na and her parents, whose corpses were found inside a car off the waters of Wando, South Jeolla, said Thursday that autopsies failed to determine the exact cause of their deaths.
The Gwangju Nambu Police Precinct said fingerprints on the bodies found in the Audi vehicle, which was approximately 10 meters (32 feet) underwater near Wando's Songgok Harbor, matched Cho, her father and mother. The vehicle was recovered from the water a little past noon Wednesday.
The corpse of an adult woman in the back seat was identified as Cho's mother at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Cho's father, whose body was in the driver's seat, was identified at 8:10 p.m., followed by Cho herself at 9:30 p.m. Cho's body was in the back seat next to her mother's.
Although the National Forensic Service performed autopsies on the remains, it was unable to determine the cause of their deaths, according to the Gwangju Nambu Police Precint. Police said no signs of external injury or disease were found.
Police said they plan to conduct body plankton, toxicology and drug tests on the remains, which can take up to a month. The body plankton test can help determine whether the family died before or after entering the water.
Police will also look into the possibility that the family car suffered a mechanical defect that could have caused it to crash into the sea.
Police found in their investigation that "sleeping pills" were one of the phrases used by Cho's parents in online searches, along with "Luna coin" and "ways to make an extreme choice" — a common Korean phrase for suicide.
Luna is a cryptocurrency developed by TerraLabs, which collapsed dramatically in early May.
Cho's elementary school in Gwangju filed a missing person's report on June 22 after she failed to show up a week after her parents said the family would return from a month-long trip to Jeju Island.
Police narrowed down their search area to Wando based on closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage from the family's rental accommodation and the road leading to Songgok Harbor, where their vehicle was last spotted moving at 11:09 p.m. on May 30. Signals from a mobile phone belonging to Cho's father were last captured by a nearby cell tower around 4 a.m. on May 31.
BY MICHAEL LEE [email@example.com]
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