Authorities identify one set of remains found in Lake Mead, 20 years after man’s death

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Skeletal remains found in drought-stricken Lake Mead in May have been identified as those of a 42-year-old man who was reported to have drowned two decades ago, a coroner has found.

The remains found May 7 at Callville Bay are one of several discoveries made since May 1 as the water level of the nation’s largest reservoir has fallen to historic lows.

The Clark County coroner/medical examiner identified the remains found at Callville Bay as those of Thomas Erndt, of Las Vegas, county spokesman Dan Kulin said.

Erndt was reported to have drowned Aug. 2, 2002, he said.

“The identification was based on investigative information, DNA analysis and reports from the original incident,” Kulin said in a statement. “The cause and manner of Mr. Erndt’s death is undetermined.”

A death notice in the Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper published on Aug. 8, 2002, says that Erndt jumped from a boat, was missing and presumed drowned, the newspaper reported Wednesday.

An obituary in the Cincinnati Enquirer on Aug. 13 of that year said Erndt died in an accident in Lake Mead, and that he was a devoted father of two, according to public records. It says Erndt was formerly of the College Hill neighborhood of the city.

The water level in Lake Mead has fallen to historic lows as the Western United States is in a 23-year drought, in what federal officials have called a crisis.

Earlier this month, Lake Mead was for the first time designated to operate in a Tier-2a shortage, which increased water restrictions for Arizona, Nevada and Mexico.

The recent discoveries of human remains at the lake began on May 1, when a barrel containing the remains of someone who was fatally shot was found near Hemenway Harbor.

Las Vegas police believe that person was killed in the 1970s or 1980s, based on the clothing and footwear found with the victim.

The gruesome find prompted speculation about the mob, but the killing is under investigation by police.

Skeletal human remains were also found in the water in the area of Boulder Beach on the Nevada side of the lake on Aug. 15, and partial remains were found near the shoreline of that beach on Aug. 6 and July 25, officials said.

Investigators are trying to determine if what the remains found on Aug. 6 and July 25 are from the same person, Kulin said.

Phil Helsel is a reporter for NBC News.

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