Human remains found by diver in Lake Mead identified as 1974 drowning victim

Skeletal remains found in Lake Mead have been identified by officials as a 1974 drowning victim, authorities in Las Vegas said.

Donald P. Smith of North Las Vegas was 39 when he was reported missing in the Colorado River reservoir behind Hoover Dam, the Clark County coroner’s office said in a statement Tuesday. The identification was made through DNA, and Smith's death has been ruled accidental, officials said.

A diver found Smith’s remains in Lake Mead’s National Recreation Area’s Callville Bay on Oct. 17, prompting a search by a park dive team that uncovered more skeletal remains.

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A formerly sunken boat sits high and dry along the shoreline of Lake Mead at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Tuesday, May 10, 2022, near Boulder City, Nev. Authorities in Las Vegas say they've identified human remains found in October 2022 at shrinking Lake Mead as a North Las Vegas man who drowned in April 1974. The Clark County coroner's office said Tuesday, March 28, 2023, that Donald P. Smith was 39 when he was reported missing in the waters of the Colorado River reservoir behind Hoover Dam.

Sixth discovery of human remains in lake

The man's remains were at least the sixth discovery of human remains at the reservoir in the past year as a drought across the West has driven Lake Mead’s water levels to record lows and caused its shoreline to rapidly recede.

Coroner's investigators are still trying to identify other remains found last year while the lake recedes because of the drought, county spokeswoman Stacey Welling said.

One set, found near the Callville Bay area on May 7, 2022, was identified as 42-year-old Thomas Erndt, Clark County officials said. Erndt’s family said he drowned while going for a late-night swim as the family was boating on the lake with friends.

Gunshot victim's remins also found

Additional remains include those of a man whom Las Vegas police say was shot in the head and stuffed into a barrel found in May 2022 near a popular swimming and boating area about a 30-minute drive from the Las Vegas Strip.

The other remains, however, have yet to be identified.

Police in Las Vegas and neighboring North Las Vegas and city officials in North Las Vegas said they did not immediately have information about a missing person or drowning report related to Smith, or family contacts.

Contributing: The Associated Press

Natalie Neysa Alund covers breaking and trending news for USA TODAY. Reach her at and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Lake Mead human remains identified as drowning victim Donald P. Smith