Body found in Lake Mead 20 years after drowning

3 mins read

Tom Erndt law saw his father on August 2, 2002, in Lake Mead, Nevada. He never saw him again until 20 years later, when his father’s remains were found at the bottom of the drought-stricken lake. 

Erndt’s father has been classified as “missing” for two decades and the last time he saw his father was as a 10-year-old boy sitting in a boat on Lake Mead. 

According to Erndt, it was a summer weekend, and the family has always taken their boat out to Lake Mead’s Callville Bay on Saturdays to camp on the shore and go on a “midnight cruise,” and swim at night. But that night, his father jumped into the water and started screaming for help. 

“My dad takes off his shirt, jumps in the water, and the next thing we know, he’s yelling for help and screaming. It’s pitch black. It’s in the middle of the lake. We did not know what to do. All of the parents on the boat said, ‘stay on the boat.’ We threw life jackets out, everything we could,” Erndt said.

Erndt’s sister could finally call 911 amidst the unstable cellphone service. Law enforcement boats, a helicopter, and ambulances arrived, but 42-year-old Thomas Erndt was nowhere to be found. 

“They didn’t find him. They said ‘don’t worry, we will find him. It was all re-assurance stuff,” he said.

“He stayed in the category of missing. My mind (went) through 100 different scenarios of what was possible,” Tom Erndt said.

On August 23, a sheriff’s coroner called Tom Erndt and said his DNA sample matched the remains found in Lake Mead. 

 “‘We found your father,’ she said. I didn’t know what to say. I was in shock. It was surreal. It means he’s at peace,” he said.

“He was found in Callville (Bay) at the spot where we did our midnight cruise. He didn’t go very far. There were scuba divers, search and rescue, why couldn’t you find him? How come this didn’t happen 20 years ago?” Tom Erndt wondered.

California’s drought has caused Lake Mead’s water to drop so low that several people’s remains were recently found. The lake’s water level has dropped 170 feet since 1983 and is not just 27% of its capacity.