Body of man who drowned 20 years ago found in drought-stricken Lake Mead is identified

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Human remains that were discovered in Lake Mead in May have been identified as those of a 42-year-old man who was reported to have drowned 20 years ago, a coroner has found.

The United States’ largest reservoir has seen its water level fall to historic lows through the summer due to drought conditions.

Several discoveries were made since 1 May, including skeletal remains.

The Clark County coroner in Las Vegas identified the remains, which were found at Callville Bay, as those of Thomas Erndt, spokesman Dan Kulin said.

Mr Erndt was reported to have drowned on 2 August 2002, he said.

“The identification was based on investigative information, DNA analysis and reports from the original incident,” Mr Kulin said in a statement.

“The cause and manner of Mr Erndt’s death is undetermined.”

According to a death announcement published in the Las Vegas Review Journal on 8 August 2002, Mr Erndt “jumped from a boat on 2 August, is missing and presumed drowned”.

In an obituary published in the Cincinnati Enquirer on 13 August, the 42-year-old was described as a devoted father of two and a resident of the College Hill neighbourhood in Las Vegas.

Earlier in May, a barrel containing the body of a man who had been shot was found on the lake.

On 3 May, police said the killing was thought to have happened between the mid-1970s and the early 1980s because the victim was wearing shoes manufactured during that period.

Investigators are considering whether the death may have been Mafia-related, homicide detective Lieutenant Ray Spencer told the New York Times.

In July, a third body was discovered in a portion of the lake that is about 30 minutes away from the notoriously mob-founded Las Vegas strip.

The water elevation is at an unprecedented low, according to data. Pic: NASA
The water elevation is at an unprecedented low, according to data. Pic: NASA

After the first two bodies were discovered, Oscar Goodman, who has represented mob figures as a lawyer, said former clients seemed interested in “climate control” – mob speak for keeping the lake level up, so bodies aren’t found.

Lake Mead, formed by the Hoover Dam in the 1930s, and Lake Powell, upstream, are part of a system that provides water to more than 40 million people in several states including Arizona, California, Colorado, and Nevada.

In July, NASA released images which showed the deterioration of the lake, which is at its lowest level since 1937.

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