Divers Uncover Sixth Set of Human Remains in Lake Mead Amid Low Water Levels

by Caitlin Berard
(Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

More than two decades of unrelenting drought, exacerbated by climate change and population growth, have resulted in a rapidly diminishing Lake Mead. The once 1,225-foot deep body of water just outside of Las Vegas, is now only 1,042 feet and continuing to decrease.

The largest reservoir in the United States, the destruction of Lake Mead threatens the water supply of Arizona, California, and Nevada. Should the lake reach critical levels, regional agriculture would become impossible, impacting the nation’s food supply.

And as if the consequences of the vanishing lake aren’t terrifying enough, the lower water levels have uncovered some truly disturbing finds. Along with the various shipwrecks, artifacts, and fossils, divers and park officials have discovered six sets of human remains this year alone.

The most recent of these discoveries was a human bone brought to the surface by a local diver. The diver, a private business operator at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, happened upon the bone in the Callville Bay area of Lake Mead earlier this month. The next day, a park dive team “confirmed the finding of human skeletal remains,” according to park spokesperson Stefani Dawn.

Medical Examiners Work to Identify Lake Mead Bodies

Medical examiners have their hands full with six different human remains discoveries. Does this mean six separate people met their death on Lake Mead? Well, it’s unclear. Some of the discoveries are partial sets, meaning multiple remains could be from the same person.

The Clark County Coroner’s Office is looking into this possibility. “At this time, no foul play is suspected,” Dawn said. “The Clark County Coroner’s Office has been contracted to confirm the identity of the deceased.”

While the identity of the most recent discoveries remains unclear, medical examiners have successfully identified other Lake Mead victims. Those found on May 1, for example, came from a corroded barrel with an obvious gunshot wound. Investigators determined that the body belonged to a homicide victim from the ’70s or ’80s.

Within a week of that discovery, medical examiners identified the remains of 42-year-old Thomas Erndt. Scientists believe he met his untimely death by drowning in 2002.

Las Vegas Historians Suspect Mob Activity

Thomas Erndt’s fate was well-documented. He was on Lake Mead with his family when he drowned. His daughter, Tina Bushman, confirmed it. The fate of other victims, however, remains a mystery. And it’s this uncertainty that gave rise to a popular theory among Las Vegas historians and fanatics: organized crime.

“There’s a lot of things we don’t know about the mob in Las Vegas. The mob purposely didn’t keep notes, they didn’t keep diaries [and] they didn’t keep journals,” mob historian Geoff Schumacher explained on an ABC News podcast.

“They threw away and burned all the evidence,” he continued. “So, we don’t know a lot about what really happened here. And perhaps some of the things dumped into Lake Mead over time might help us to fill in some of those gaps.”