LAKE MEAD, Nev. (TCD) — Clark County officials positively identified remains found in October as a 39-year-old man who drowned in Lake Mead almost 50 years ago.
KLAS-TV reports the remains are those of Donald Smith, a North Las Vegas resident who drowned in April 1974. Smith’s death was reportedly ruled accidental.
A diver reportedly discovered Smith’s remains Oct. 17 in Callville Bay, according to NBC News. On Oct. 20, a dive team from the National Park Service reportedly conducted a full search and located even more bones.
This is hardly the first time skeletal remains have been located in Lake Mead. Between May and October 2022, the National Park Service announced on at least five occasions that someone called to report finding human remains somewhere in the lake. In August, the National Park Service said the Clark County coroner’s office identified remains found on May 7 as 42-year-old Thomas Erndt. He reportedly drowned Aug. 2, 2002.
These discoveries are happening in part due to a drastic decrease in the lake’s water levels.
In May, boaters discovered a body inside a barrel, and Las Vegas Metropolitan Police said at the time the victim was most likely killed in the 1980s.
Lt. Ray Spencer told the Las Vegas Review-Journal at the time, “The water level has dropped so much over the last 30 to 40 years that, where the person was located, if a person were to drop the barrel in the water and it sinks, you are never going to find it unless the water level drops.”
A report by NASA in July 2022 showed that Lake Mead’s water was at its lowest since April 1937, and it hasn’t been at full capacity since 1983 and 1999.
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