Identification of Second Victim of 1974 Drowning at Lake Mead Confirmed

Donald P. Smith of North Las Vegas was identified by county officials on Tuesday, March 28th as the person whose remains were found at Lake Mead’s Callville Bay on October 17th and 19th of 2022. Smith, who was 39 at the time of his disappearance in April of 1974, was said to have drowned accidentally.

The first set of remains found at Lake Mead were discovered in a barrel in Hemenway Harbor on May 1st, 2022, some 30 miles away from Las Vegas. These remains have yet to be identified. (Image: Shawna Elizabeth Hollister)

The identification of Smith was determined through DNA analysis and reports from the original incident, as stated in a statement released by Clark County spokesperson Stacey Welling to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Smith’s remains were the fourth set discovered at Lake Mead since a megadrought started causing the reservoir to recede and reveal its secrets.

The second set of remains were found by two sisters paddleboarding near Callville Bay on May 7th, 2022. These belonged to Thomas Erndt, a 42-year-old Las Vegas man who was believed to have drowned during a nighttime boating trip on August 2nd, 2002. Erndt’s family reported that he and two other adults had gone swimming with his two children, and he never resurfaced. It was not until August 24th, 2022 that the Clark County coroner’s office was able to make a positive identification, although his cause and manner of death remain unknown.

The third set of remains were located at Boulder Beach on July 25th, August 6th, and August 15th. These have been confirmed to have belonged to the same person, but have yet to be identified.

In his statement to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Stacey Welling further clarified the identification process. This process, he explained, includes examinations to determine the gender and approximate age, height, and weight of the decedent; the collection of DNA samples, the quality of which can be greatly affected by time and environmental conditions; and comparing findings to information about people who have been reported missing over the years.