A prominent American expatriate died outside a Phnom Penh karaoke club early Wednesday, but neither police nor hospital officials have been able to determine the cause of his death.
Scott Bradley Nelson, 34, who served as the country manager for the MPA private security company, was pronounced dead at 1:30 am Wednesday at Calmette Hospital.
He had no external signs of foul play, doctors said, but police have not ruled out the possibility.
“Police are conducting an investigation. We are looking for the victim’s friends,” said Ouch Thorn, deputy police chief of the Don Penh district.
He said Nelson was accompanied by a handful of friends, mostly Cambodians, when he went to the 99 Karaoke Club in central Phnom Penh. But those friends have not been seen since.
Police officials also said they wanted to examine Nelson’s body for clues. But Nelson’s family decided to postpone an autopsy until his body is returned to the US, hospital officials said.
As Nelson’s driver tells it, Nelson stopped off to check on a new security contract at about
10 pm and then headed to the karaoke club. He spent roughly two hours inside, while his driver, Im Vinny, waited outside.
“Scott’s friends came down and called me for help and said that Scott had too much to drink. So we went upstairs and got him and carried him down to the car,” Im Vinny said Wednesday. “Somewhere on the road, someone realized that he might not be breathing. When we got to the hospital, the doctor checked him and said he had passed away.”
Several of Nelson’s friends also said on Wednesday they spoke to him hours before he died and that he appeared cheerful and healthy.
While few believe he could have died of “natural causes,” none of his friends gathered at the hospital on Wednesday could think of anyone who would do him harm. “He was not a person who had enemies,” said Ouk Haiseila, a marketing representative at Nelson’s company.
Nelson grew up in Boise, in the US state of Idaho. By the time he made his first trip to Cambodia in 1992, he already was fluent in Khmer. Since then, he has been in and out of Cambodia, working as a hotel manager and an election monitor before he signed on with MPA a year ago. Friends remember him as an intelligent, motivated guy who eventually “caught the Cambodia bug.”
“He was so committed to Cambodia. He did so much for Cambodians,” said John Brown, Nelson’s long-time friend and adviser to CMAC.
Arrangements are being made to send Nelson’s body back to the US, where the autopsy will be performed.