More human remains have been found in the receding waters of Lake Mead, authorities said on Saturday.
This is the fourth time human remains have been found at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area since May.
In the latest incident, park rangers received a call Saturday morning about skeletal remains in the Swim Beach area, National Park Service officials said in a statement.
Rangers set up a perimeter on the beach to recover the remains with the help of divers from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, according to the Park Service. A coroner was also called to determine the cause of death.
At least three different sets have already been found at the lake, where water levels have plunged to unprecedented lows amid a relentless water crisis in the West.
Previously discovered remains, including a body found in a corroded barrel with a gunshot wound, were in an advanced stage of decomposition and therefore difficult to extract DNA from, officials said.
It is not known how long the last discovered remains have been in the lake. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Homicide Division is not currently handling the investigation, Lt. Jason Johansson told CNN.
The police department is investigating a different body, however, the one found in the lake’s Hemenway Port Barrel on May 1. The body had an obvious gunshot wound and investigators immediately treated it as a homicide investigation, Johansson told CNN. .
“Any time you have a body in a barrel, there was clearly someone else involved,” he said.
Clark County Coroner Melanie Rouse has since ruled a preliminary ruling that the cause and manner of death was a shooting homicide. The body, nicknamed Hemenway Harbor Doe by the coroner’s office, belonged to a person who died in the mid-1970s to early 1980s, police said.
A second set of remains – found May 7 in Calville Bay – believed to belong to a person between the ages of 23 and 37, according to Rouse.
It is not known how this person died. The Calville Bay remains are more skeletal than the other two sets, both of which still have organ tissue available for examination, Rouse said.
According to Rouse, a third set of remains – found at the lake’s swimming beach on July 25 – are only partial and are still in the early stages of examination.
The lake straddles the border of Nevada and Arizona.
While the grim finds in the shrinking lake quickly generated theories about mob involvement, Johansson said those ideas are “mere speculation” at this stage of the investigation.
A spokesperson for the National Park Service told CNN that a possible explanation for the remains could be that they belong to people who previously drowned at the edge of the lake when the water level was high.
At its peak in the 1980s, Lake Mead – the nation’s largest man-made reservoir – was 1,225 feet above sea level. But as the mega-drought persists, water levels have plunged this year to the lowest level since the reservoir was filled in the 1930s.
Lake Mead was filled to just 27% of its capacity as of July 18, 2022, according to NASA.
Water levels have dropped so much that in addition to several bodies, they have exposed a sunken ship dating from World War II, the Park Service announced in early July.
The video in the media player above is from a previous report