Human remains found in Lake Mead identified as man who drowned almost 50 years ago
Human remains found in Lake Mead have been identified as a man from Nevada who drowned almost 50 years ago.
The Clark County coroner’s office has confirmed that the remains found are those of Donald Smith, who lived in North Las Vegas.
Officials said in a press release that Mr Smith accidentally drowned in the reservoir at the age of 39 in April 1974, just under 49 years ago.
The coroner used DNA analysis on the skeletal remains as well as reports from the incident at the time.
A concession dive operator found the skeletal remains about five months ago on 17 October last year, according to CBS News.
The diver was in Callville Bay, the part of Lake Mead that’s nearest Las Vegas and which is a popular spot for tourists. The area features a campground and boat rentals.
A National Park Service spokesperson said the diver found what appeared to be a human bone, prompting the park service to dispatch a dive team to search a larger area of the lake and they were able to confirm “the finding of human skeletal remains”. The spokesperson said there were no suspicions of foul play.
Further remains were discovered two days later on 19 October 2022 which were found to “belong to the same person as those found on Oct 17,” Clark County authorities said in their statement announcing the identification of Mr Smith.
Mr Smith is at least the sixth discovery of human remains in recreational areas of the lake within the last 12 months.
Hemenway Harbor boaters found a body in a barrel in May, identified by police as an individual killed in a shooting decades previously.
Not long after, the park service revealed that they had made their first finding of remains in Callville Bay, located about 25 miles from the harbour.
Those remains were later found to belong to Thomas Erndt, according to the Clark County coroner. Officials think the Las Vegas resident drowned in 2002 at the age of 42. The cause of death is yet to be determined.
Parts of a human skeleton were located close to the shores of Lake Mead in July and two times in August of last year.
The coroner has said that the remains discovered near Boulder Beach on 25 July were those of the same person whose remains were found in the same area on 6 and 16 August. The remains have yet to be identified.
Clark County officials said that the identification of human remains is based on estimations of age and physical features, in addition to DNA, “the quality of which can be greatly affected by time and environmental conditions”.
The details are then compared to missing person reports.
The discoveries of the remains come as the water level in Lake Mead has decreased significantly following decades of over-consumption and drought.
Images from Nasa revealed the difference in water levels between 2000 and 2022.