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Death of Erving's son ruled accidental drowning, investigators say
SANFORD, Florida (CNN) -- The youngest son of basketball hall-of-famer Julius "Dr. J" Erving died in May of an accidental drowning, the Seminole County Sheriff's Department announced Wednesday.
"The manner and cause of Cory Erving's death is accidental drowning," Sheriff Donald Eslinger said in a news conference to announce the results of his department's more than two-month long investigation into the younger Erving's disappearance and death.
Erving, 19, was last seen May 28 in Lake Mary, Florida, about five miles from Sanford, when he picked up bread at a restaurant for his family's Memorial Day cookout. In the days following his disappearance, his family issued numerous pleas to the public to help find him, and Julius Erving offered a $25,000 reward for information in the case.
Cory was found July 6, in his submerged car in a retention pond about a mile from his family's home.
The pond had been cursorily searched previously, but was not dragged. After looking in 36 other bodies of water in the area, authorities decided to drag the retention pond and found Erving's car, about 97 feet from the shoreline in water eight feet deep.
Eslinger said Wednesday Erving was apparently taking a shortcut home through a construction area for a housing development. Workers piled tree stumps and other brush beside a dirt road some people used to cut through the site. Officials theorize the high-piled debris obscured Erving's view of the pond until it was too late.
"We believe the vehicle was traveling 27-38 mph when it hit the water," Eslinger said, citing reports by accident reconstruction experts.
He said the 1999 Volkswagen Passat's doors were locked, the cassette player was on, the windshield wipers were on, and the two windows on the driver's side of the car were down at least six inches.
According to the report, Eslinger said, Erving was not wearing a seatbelt and was driving with his seat reclined 56 degrees, which meant he could only see 44 inches above ground level.
"There was no furrowing in the shore of the pond, and the car hit the water about seven feet from the shoreline," Erlinger said, referring to the absence of marks which would have indicated Erving applied the brakes well before going into the water.
"He was probably trying to avoid a big debris pile, and saw the pond too late," he said. "When he hit the brakes he was probably already over the water."
Erlinger said a toxicology report from the autopsy showed Erving had ingested cocaine 24-36 hours before his death, but he said authorities don't believe that would have contributed to the accident or impaired his ability to get out of the car.
The Erving family had long ago publicly acknowledged that Cory was a recovering drug and alcohol abuser.
Erlinger had no explanation as to why the young man could not escape from the car. Re-enactments of the accident showed the passenger cabin would have filled with water within one minute, but the car would not have submerged completely for almost four minutes.
Body found in submerged car confirmed as Julius Erving's son, Cory
Seminole County Sheriff's Office
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