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Human remains found at Lake Mead in May identified as Las Vegas man missing for 20 years, coroner says

Drought reveals remains at Lake Mead
Drought reveals long-lost remains at Lake Mead 02:56

Authorities in Las Vegas have identified bones found in May along part of Lake Mead's newly exposed shoreline as the remains of a 42-year-old Las Vegas man, who is believed to have drowned 20 years ago.

The Clark County coroner's office said Wednesday that Thomas Erndt was reported missing Aug. 2, 2002.

The bones were found on May 7 by paddle boarders near a former marina in Lake Mead, the shrinking Colorado River reservoir behind Hoover Dam.

A statement from Coroner Melanie Rouse said investigators used DNA and reports of Erndt's disappearance for the identification. An official cause and manner of death were not determined.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that a death announcement at the time said Erndt jumped from a boat and was presumed to have drowned.

Receding water in Lake Mead has given rise to a pattern of alarming discoveries since the spring, as visitors continue to find and report human remains that seem to be resurfacing with increasing frequency in the noticeably sparse reservoir. Coroner's investigators are still working to identify a man who was killed by a gunshot after his body was found May 1 in a rusted barrel, as well as partial human skeletal remains found July 25 and Aug. 6 near a swimming area.

Partial skeletal remains also were found Aug. 16 near the same swimming area.

The water levels at Lake Mead have dropped steadily for some time, amid persistent drought in the southwest, but fell noticeably this season and hit a historic low in July. Lake Mead's elevation numbers put the reservoir's capacity at less than 30% of its maximum, and are similar to the water levels recorded when it was filled for the first time in the 1930s.

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