According to the Clark County Coroner’s Office, human remains that were discovered at Lake Mead have been identified as belonging to Claude Russell Pensinger, a man who went missing in 1998 while fishing in the reservoir.

Pensinger’s remains were one of several sets discovered at the lake as its water levels continue to drop after an extended drought.


In May 2022, a dead man with a gunshot wound was found inside a barrel. Authorities are investigating the death as a homicide. Based on the victim’s clothing, Las Vegas Police Department detectives think the man was killed in the mid-70s or early 80s.


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Just days later, a pair of paddleboarders found remains that belonged to Thomas Erndt, who drowned in 2002.

A set of remains from another man who drowned was then uncovered. The victim was Donald P. Smith, a 39-year-old man who died in 1974.

Pieces of Pensinger’s remains were found last summer on the shoreline of Boulder Beach. The coroner hasn’t yet worked out a cause of death. In 1998, Pensinger’s boat was discovered “running in circles.”

When completely filled, Lake Mead is the largest human-made water reservoir in the United States. It supplies drinking water to more than 40 million people in the surrounding area. However, a prolonged drought lasting decades has made water levels drop to their lowest point since its construction.

This has pushed federal and state officials to enact a $200 million conservation agreement in 2021. Climate change experts claim that this action will only delay until a more drastic solution is implemented.

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