In August 2002, while boating with his family in Lake Mead in Nevada, 42-year-old aeroplane mechanic Thomas Erndt met with an accident, according to ABC’s “20/20: Secrets of the Lake.” Till Thomas’s bones were found more than two decades later, his family held out hope that he would somehow manage to survive. In the wake of the tragic finding, conversations with his family are featured in the episode. Here is what we know about what happened in case you’re curious.
Who Was Thomas Erndt?
Nicholas and Annemarie Erndt gave birth to Thomas “Tom” P. Erndt in Las Vegas, in Clark County, Nevada. Julie Erndt, his sister, recalled him as a hard-working single father who worked as an aeroplane mechanic. He adored his children and was always willing to provide a helping hand. The Kentucky woman said that her brother vanished in August 2002 following a boating outing with relatives and friends. The Erndt family’s life would be altered forever on August 2, 2002, a Friday night.
According to reports, Tom was aboard a boat in Callville Bay, a body of water on the western side of Lake Mead in Nevada, with his two children, Tina and Tom, as well as some friends and family members. Tom had dove into the sea “like he always did.” Julie recalled how her brother occasionally dove into the sea before getting back on the boat and watching the kids swim. Tom Jr., who was just ten at the time, claimed that it was late and that nobody else was prepared to enter the ocean.
The boy described how his dad undressed and dove into the lake. When he thought back to that fateful evening, he remarked, “My father was a huge joker and things too. Right, at first it was sort of like, “Oh, I’m drowning, hahaha!” Screaming and yelling followed by the phrase “I need help” ensued. Because it was so late, it was completely dark, and the waves were growing. Due to network difficulties, Tom’s frightened family was unable to start the boat, and his scared sister was unable to make a call on her cell phone.
It was already too late when the terrified family managed to get touch of a 911 dispatcher and ask for assistance. Thomas Erndt, 42, was last seen at that location. They weren’t really that far from the shore, but something must have happened, said Julie. He went disappeared, and we’re not really sure. No body was ever found despite extensive search and rescue efforts and SCUBA diving investigations in the area where the boat had gone. The citizen of Las Vegas was reportedly assumed deceased after drowning at Lake Mead on August 2, 2002, according to a former County spokeswoman.
How Did Thomas Erndt Die?
In 2022, Lake Mead’s water levels reached record lows, putting the country’s largest reservoir just 150 feet from a “dead pool” – a condition in which water cannot flow from the dam downstream due to the reservoir’s low levels. The lake’s elevation decreased by about 20 feet, from 1,067.09 feet to 1,047.69 feet, between January and May 2022, according to the Bureau of Reclamation. Tom’s bones were discovered on May 7 in the dwindling Colorado River reservoir behind Hoover Dam, according to the Clark County coroner’s office. They were discovered next to an old marina.
According to sources, after reviewing the accounts of every incident that occurred in Lake Mead, the authorities approached Julie for a DNA test in the weeks that followed. Additionally, they got in touch with Tom Jr. and provided him a mouth swab testing kit. On August 27, 2022, more than 20 years after the occurrence, the Clark County Sheriff’s Office declared the remains to be Tom’s. In accordance with a spokeswoman, “The identification was based on investigative information, DNA analysis, and reports from the original incident.”
Tom Jr. described how he initially resisted going to the test kit for a week before being persuaded by his fiance. He remembered, “I couldn’t bring myself to do it because I wasn’t sure if I was prepared for the answer. Finally working up the courage, my fiancé assisted me in getting through it. I also distributed the sample. The family experienced both comfort and sadness upon receiving the confirmation. “I’ve always thought something would pop up,” Tom Jr. remarked, “but just knowing that in my head, I guess it kept me from hoping that maybe there’s a possibility that I would see my dad again.”
“Now that I’ve heard this news, I know I’m not going to,” he continued. So it’s been quite difficult. He wants his father to be remembered as a person, though, and not just as another set of bone remains discovered on the lake. Additionally, the idea that these bodies were connected to mafia killings infuriated him. I don’t want my dad to be associated with any of it, he clarified. It’s difficult to watch the news alone, too. On August 9, 2002, Prince of Peace Catholic Church hosted a memorial service.
We value everything the county and park recreation centre have done for our family by keeping the case open, Julie stated. Although Tom Jr. claimed he still can’t find complete closure for himself, the family believes Tom is at peace. He had been engaged to his fiancée near Hoover Dam and then taken engagement pictures at Lake Mead as a memorial. On the sand, the family also let out balloons in Tom’s honour. Since May 2022, human remains have been found in the Lake Mead area five times, with the discovery of his remains marking the second of such finds.
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