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‘Very tragic’: Lake Mead deaths rise to 19 in 2023 after recent drownings

Updated August 4, 2023 - 7:35 pm

Officials at Lake Mead National Recreation Area are retirating the importance of safety after two people drowned at the lake last weekend, raising the number of fatalities this year to 19.

“Even one (death) is very tragic and not acceptable to us and we are trying to let the public know … please, please, please keep safety in mind,” park spokesman John Haynes said. “We want every last person to get home safely.”

The Clark County coroner’s office identified Henderson resident Kristopher Ross, 42, as the man who drowned Saturday in Crawdad Cove near Las Vegas Bay in the northwest part of the lake.

The second drowning occurred about 12:45 p.m. Saturday in Callville Bay and the body was recovered Sunday morning, Haynes said.

“Two people were boating and got out for a swim and the boat got away from them and one of them didn’t make it,” Haynes said.

The coroner’s office said Friday that the identification of the second person is pending, but family and friends Saturday identified the second person who died as 36-year-old Aaron Bivens.

According to Haynes, six people have drowned this year and another four died jumping from the Hoover Dam bypass bridge and there were two other suicides in the park. Six people have died in motor-vehicle crashes, while the cause of death for one person has not been determined.

Pleading for safety

Acting Superintendent Mike Gauthier says park rangers are “still seeing multiple incidents and accidents, both on the land and on the water.”

The plea for safety has long been an urgent call, but “unsafe behavior has been a problem all summer,” Haynes said, noting that pool toys and sudden winds are causing dangerous and potentially deadly situations.

Over the weekend, several boaters were caught off-guard as monsoon winds swept in unexpectedly and created hazardous conditions. There are also ongoing instances where swimmers with pool toys and paddleboards are blown from designated swimming areas out into the lake by the strong winds, according to the National Park Service.

“Honestly, (unsafe behavior) has been going on all summer and most of it is the same things we are always talking about,” Haynes said. “No life jackets, DUIs, illegal pool toys that get caught by the wind and all of the sudden a child is blown a quarter-mile away and nobody notices.”

Pool toys banned

Pool toys are banned at the lake because they don’t provide any safety and can create a very dangerous problem, Haynes said.

Haynes said a Facebook page for Lake Mead boaters posted about a young girl who was at a beach last weekend who was blown with her toy life-preserver “way out there.” Nobody noticed and some boaters had to save her, while other boaters had to save some teenagers, he said.

“Every day we see unsafe boating practices, drinking and driving, and heat-related illness, among others. It’s also monsoon season, which means unpredictable rain and wind,” Haynes said. “We have life jacket loaner stations all around the lake for adults and children.”

With monsoon season at hand, gusty winds can come with little or no warning and create dangerous conditions.

145 deaths reported

Visitation numbers show 5.58 million people visited Lake Mead in 2022, the ninth-most visited site in the National Park Service.

Lake Mead reported 145 deaths from 2014-2021, dozens more than any other park service site. Of the 145 deaths, 47 were drownings.

By comparison, Grand Canyon National Park reported the second-most deaths, with 97.

Contact Marvin Clemons at mclemons@reviewjournal.com. Follow @Marv_in_Vegas on X.

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