Thanks to the ongoing drought in the US, the parched, rapidly receding waters of Nevada's Lake Mead have revealed a second set of long-lost human remains in less than a week.
On May 1, police received reports of a human body in a barrel found stuck in the mud near the shrinking waters of Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the US by water capacity, found just east of Las Vegas. Less than a week later, on Saturday, May 7, National Park Service rangers responded to another call saying more human remains had been discovered near the lake's waters.
Due to warming temperatures linked to climate change, the waters of Lake Mead have been dropping for several decades, reportedly leaving the reservoir just 38 percent full by late April 2021. The waters have been further depleted this year, revealing the long-forgotten secrets that lie along the muddy lakebed.
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) says the first body discovered in the barrel appears to be the victim of a murder, killed by a gunshot wound. Based on their clothing and shoes, they suspect the victim was killed in the mid-70s or early-80s, but their identity remains a mystery.
"My husband heard a woman scream and then he went to look and found the body in a very deteriorated 50 gal drum," Shawna Hollister, a Las Vegas resident, told News 3. "He found a man that was mostly bones, except for some of his shirt and belt showing."
As for the second body, the Clark County Medical Examiner is investigating the cause of death and the identity of the person after witnesses, two sisters out paddleboarding, reported seeing human bones on a sandbar at Calville Bay, within Lake Mead's recreation area.
According to the La Vegas police, the area where the first body was found was covered in dozens of feet of water just decades ago. The southwest US is currently experiencing the worst drought in 1,200 years, according to a study published in Nature Climate Change.
“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,” LVMPD Lieutenant Ray Spencer said last week, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “The water level has dropped and made the barrel visible. The barrel did not move….It was not like the barrel washed up.”
Officials have said they are anticipating more human remains to be discovered as the water level drops further. “There’s no telling what we’ll find in Lake Mead,” former Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman told AFP on Monday. “It’s not a bad place to dump a body.”