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Human remains found at Lake Mead identified as man who disappeared in 1998

Skeletal remains have been discovered at the reservoir as water levels have dropped to historic lows amid drought.
LAKE MEAD NATIONAL RECREATION AREA, NEVADA - JUNE 12:  Lake Mead is seen in the distance behind mostly dead plants in an area of dry, cracked earth that used to be underwater near Boulder Beach on June 12, 2021 in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada. This week, The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation reported that Lake Mead, North America's largest artificial reservoir, dropped to 1,071.53 feet above sea level, the lowest it's been since being filled in 1937 after the construction of the Hoover Dam. The declining water levels are a result of a nearly continuous drought for the past two decades coupled with increased water demands in the Southwestern United States.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Lake Mead is seen in the distance behind mostly dead plants in an area of dry, cracked earth that used to be underwater near Boulder Beach in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Nevada on June 12, 2021.Ethan Miller / Getty Images file

Human remains found at diminished Lake Mead in Nevada have been identified as those of a 52-year-old man who disappeared in 1998, Clark County said in a statement Wednesday.

The skeletal remains were identified by the county medical examiner's office as those of Claude Russell Pensinger, of Las Vegas, it said.

The remains were found on three different dates — July 25, Aug. 6 and Aug. 16 — but all were his, the office said. They were found on the shoreline of Boulder Beach, on the Nevada side of the huge reservoir north of Hoover Dam.

A cause of death was not determined, Clark County said in the statement.

An article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal from July 20, 1998, said Pensinger was fishing when he disappeared from his boat, which was found running in circles, the newspaper reported Wednesday.

As water levels at Lake Mead dropped, a number of sets of humans remains were found, including a series of discoveries starting last May.

One of them has been ruled an obvious homicide by officials — a person who was fatally shot and whose remains were found in a 50-gallon drum in Hemenway Harbor.

The remains of another person, Donald P. Smith of North Las Vegas, Nevada, were found Oct. 17 and Oct. 19. Smith drowned in an accident in 1974, the medical examiner's office determined.

The remains of Thomas Erndt, of Las Vegas, were found May 7. He had been reported to have drowned in the lake in 2002; a cause and manner of death have remained undetermined.

When it's at "full pool," Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in the U.S.

The level has dropped following a more than 20-year drought. The Interior Department said this month there are potentials for "unprecedented water shortages" in the Colorado River Basin.

Lake Mead was created by the construction of the Hoover Dam, which was finished in 1935. It's almost totally fed by the Colorado River, although there are other sources that make up 3% of the inflow, according to the National Park Service.