Decades-Old Human Remains Found In Barrel As Lake Mead Recedes

As the American West suffers through a megadrought, we should expect to find more human remains on lake bottoms.

Boaters at Lake Mead on Sunday stumbled across a barrel containing human remains that, based on the decayed nature of the metal drum, appear to have been there for several decades.

“My husband heard a woman scream and then he went to look and found the body in a very deteriorated 50-gallon 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.”

The discovery prompted a search of the area by National Park Service rangers, who assisted the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department in recovering the remains.

Photos of the site show a rusted-out barrel that’s partially submerged in mud roughly a foot from the edge of the current lake level.

The Clark County coroner’s office told The Associated Press it will oversee efforts to determine the person’s identity.

Las Vegas Metro Police Homicide Lt. Ray Spencer told 8 News Now the victim was likely killed in the 1980s, based on items found in the barrel. What’s more, Spencer said, he fully expects to find more bodies as the lake level drops.

“I think anybody can understand there are probably more bodies that have been dumped in Lake Mead,” he said. “It’s just a matter of, are we able to recover those?”

Lake levels at the nation’s largest reservoir have fallen amid a worsening megadrought in the region ― the driest in at least 1,200 years. Last week, receding waters revealed the lake’s original intake valve from 1971:

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