LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A Las Vegas native believes skeletal remains found at Lake Mead last month could be his father who died more than six decades ago.
Daniel Kolod was 22 when he drowned in Callville Bay in 1958. His body was never recovered.
Water levels at Lake Mead have dropped drastically since their peak levels first reached in the 1940s and then again in the 1980s. The lake dropped below 1,044 feet in elevation on Thursday – nearly 200 feet below the elevation when it is full.
Lake levels are expressed in altitude, not depth. At its highest levels, the lake is near 1,225 feet.
“After he drowned, I was told that he ‘went away,’” Todd Kolod, Daniel Kolod’s son, told the 8 News Now I-Team from his home in Spain.
“He went out regularly,” Todd Kolod said. “He ran out of people to give fish to.”
Todd Kolod was 3 years old when his father drowned. Daniel Kolod was on a speed boat with a friend when they hit a wake. Both men flipped and fell into the water. Only one survived.
Witnesses found the boat circling on its own about a mile from the drowning site near Swallow Bay, documents reviewed by the I-Team said. Onlookers said they saw Kolod drown in Callville Bay. Crews, including divers and a helicopter, never found his body.
As the lake recedes, more of its secrets are revealed. What once was a popular spot for swimmers and boaters in Callville Bay is now sand littered with debris, including boats, propellers and chairs. Relics from the good times in the lake’s past are now visible on its newly exposed shore.
Since the lake’s filling in the 1930s, 300 people have drowned in its waters, park service officials said. The number does not reflect the people whose bodies have not been recovered.
In May, kayakers discovered the skeletal remains not far from where Daniel Kolod is believed to have drowned. Police and park officials determined the death was not suspicious.
“When I saw Callville Bay, my eyes bulged wide open,” Todd Kolod said.
Todd Kolod, watching the news reports from across the Atlantic Ocean, thinks the remains could be his father.
“Is something telling you, ‘I really think it’s him?’” The I-Team’s David Charns asked Todd Kolod.
“I’m just lining up the clues,” he said.
One clue surrounds Daniel Kolod’s teeth. He was in a car crash a few years before he drowned and lost his front teeth, Todd Kolod said, adding his father wore a partial denture.
The I-Team brought photos of the remains and Daniel Kolod’s story to Dr. Deborah Staten, owner and dentist at Desert Hills Dental. Staten is certified in helping identify remains from dental records. Oftentimes, teeth are the last resort in trying to identify the victim of a crime because bones do not decay.
“Bone and teeth are solid, which is why they become this gold standard for identification because they don’t change,” Staten said. “If it just sat there undisturbed, it’s probably how it arrived there.”
“What sticks out to you in this photo, particularly as a dentist?” Charns asked Staten.
“Well, that there are only four teeth in particular,” Staten said.
“What can you learn from someone’s teeth?” Charns asked.
“There’s a lot,” she said. “Teeth are a signature basically, just like your fingerprint.”
Staten said it is clear the skeleton is missing its front teeth, but she believes the person was missing other teeth before their death.
“I feel like those front ones were freshly removed,” she said.
Simply based on the photos, Staten could not go any further. The key, she said, is finding Daniel Kolod’s dental records, but it is almost certain they were destroyed.
There was no DNA testing in 1958. Getting a sample from Todd Kolod today and matching it with the remains is the only way to potentially solve this mystery.
“My grandfather, he did everything he could to find the body,” Todd Kolod said. “I just assumed finding the body was an impossibility.”
For a son who does not remember his father, what was once impossible could now be possible with time.
“This could be my dad, or my dad could be the next discovery,” he said.
In an unrelated case, Metro police and the FBI are working to identify the body found in a barrel in May. The person, believed to be a man, is suspected to have been murdered in the late-1970s or 1980s, investigators said.
The Vegas Justice League, a group of entrepreneurs that have given money to Las Vegas Metro police to help solve cold cases, has offered to pay for the processing of the DNA in that case, league member Justin Woo told the I-Team.
As the I-Team has reported for years, Lake Mead was a popular dumping site for murderers. Police said they suspect they will find more barrels with bodies as the lake recedes. Lake Mead will drop nearly 30 feet from its current level by September of 2023 if forecasts released Thursday are accurate.
Police said they have received many tips about the person who was in the barrel.
Tips can be submitted anonymously through Crime Stoppers by calling 702-385-5555 or at crimestoppersofnv.com/report-a-crime. Information can also be sent via text by sending “CRIMENV” and then your message to “CRIMES” (274637). Crime Stoppers offers a reward for information that leads to an arrest.