LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – The discovery of floating human remains at Lake Mead has a Las Vegas family hopeful that they belong to an Army veteran who drowned two decades ago.
Kenneth Funk was 56 when he drowned at the lake saving his wife, his family told WFXR’s sister station, KLAS.
“The fact that these remains are coming up, if it is him, I want to do the right thing and take care of him,” Jessica Condon, Funk’s daughter, said. Funk loved the outdoors and boating on the lake, according to Condon.
“That’s where he loved to be,” Condon said.
On June 19, 2004 — the day before Father’s Day — Funk was on a pontoon boat with his wife Annette and two other family members when a wave hit. The force threw Annette from the boat and into the depths of Boulder Basin.
Minutes before, Annette had removed her life jacket to change her shirt, Condon said.
Funk turned off the engine and jumped in.
“He gave her the life jacket, and they were in the water together, as close as me and you are right now, and he treaded water as long as he could,” Condon said.
Eventually, he could tread water no longer.
“He put his head back, he closed his eyes, and he went under,” she said. Condon believes her father suffered a heart attack.
“My dad knew, he knew there was no way out for him, and he knew that if she held on to him, she would go down with him,” Condon said.
An airplane spotted Annette in the water about 45 minutes after she was tossed from the boat, Condon said. Video from the time shows park rangers searching the then-300-foot-deep area of Lake Mead. But Kenneth Funk’s body was never found.
Condon said she was told her father’s remains would likely never be recovered. But she has always held out hope. Years ago, she also provided a DNA sample to the coroner’s office in Arizona following the discovery of a jawbone, though she never heard back.
“For 18 years, whenever there is a drowning out there or there’s ever, ‘Hey we found a body out here,’ I’ve kind of prepared myself for it,” she said.
That day came in late July when swimmers discovered the torso near Swim Beach. The area is located along the shore, in the part of the lake where Funk drowned.
“It’s built like my dad, the stomach, the chest, the back,” Condon said of the remains, after seeing photos shared online. She also noted her father had a unique scar on his stomach that she hoped to confirm with the coroner.
The torso, however, is covered in a waxy substance called adipocere. It forms over time when bacteria encounter fat tissue. This wax, and the depths at which Funk’s body may have come to a rest, could have preserved the body. The question is how long the preservation could have lasted.
“The fact that these remains are coming up, if it is him, I want to do the right thing and take care of him,” Condon said.
If indeed the remains are confirmed to be those of her father, Condon’s include a proper burial.
In the meantime, the family had instead installed a cross on an island nearby, hoping that others would think about who it represents.
“That represents somebody that’s lost their life out here for some reason, so maybe we need to stop, slow down, put our life jacket on, so we don’t have these accidents and we don’t have these tragedies.”
Investigators were trying to determine if the remains found floating near Swim Beach are related to more remains discovered last weekend. Those remains included bones from an appendage like an arm or leg, photos showed.
WFXR’s sister statin KLAS also showed photos of the torso discovered near Swim Beach to Dr. Scott Glickman, a neurosurgeon, who said it appeared as if this person’s arms, legs, and head were cleanly removed, indicating a more violent demise than the one Funk suffered.
“You’re not just going to, like, lose an arm,” Glickman said. “It’s not going to get soft in the shoulder area on the right side or on the left side and the arms kind of spontaneously break off. They’re not going to do it in a clean fashion.”
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