In July 1996, a family of four went into Death Valley National Park and never returned. The family, who included Egbert Rimkus, 388; his son Georg Weber, 11; Cornelia Meyer, 27; and Max Meyer, 4; was visiting California, America from Dresden, Germany.
The family had spent time in Southern California and then made their way to Las Vegas. Nevada. The Treasure Island Hotel had documents of the family staying there until July 22, 1996. After that, they headed for Death Valley National Park. The family had tickets back to Germany on July 27, 1996, but there was no evidence that they had ever made it.
On October 21, 1996, a Death Valley National Park Ranger, Dave Brenner, was flying over Death Valley National Park when he noticed a van that appeared abandoned. After inspecting the vehicle and checking the license plate, The Inyo Sheriff’s department traced back to the missing family; the rental agency expected the van back on July 26, 1996. The vehicle had flat tires and there were no signs of the passengers.
First responders turned up food wrappers, and they found a hole with fecal matter. The van was towed from the area and stored in an impound lot. Park logbooks, which are set up at the various sites for guests to sign, were also searched. The family had signed the book when they had stopped at the Warm Springs mine site. Along with their names, they had written (in German) “We are going over the pass”, which was a clue for the search teams.
The search teams, which were composed of the China Lake Mountain Rescue Group, some members of the Indian Wells Valley Search and Rescue Group, and some members of the Kern County Sheriff’s mounted Search and Rescue. The first day of the search one team found a Bud Ice beer bottle, which was identical to beer bottles found in the van. The search lasted for four days and they found no other signs of the family. Knowing they were looking for the remains of the family, they called the search off.
The Search to the South
There had been a few searched over the years with no avail. Tom Mahood came across the story of the missing family in 2008. Tom was a member of the Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit and became intrigued with the case. After asking around and talking to some original search members, he decided he would go on a hike of his own. He wanted to search South to where the van was found, which was the only area that had not been searched. The bottle had not been in this direction, and the search and rescue teams did not believe that the family would have traveled south.
Tom headed on a hike on October 27, 2009, to the area where the van and the beer bottle were found. He spent a few hours hiking and got a feel for the area. He went back on November 11, 2009. with a member of the Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit, Les Walker. The hike they went on was not an easy one, the terrain was rough, water was sparse, and it was extremely hot; but the pair wanted to solve this mystery and bring closure to the families of the missing.
They had searched the southern area and split up to cover more ground. Les followed the base of the hill they had come upon, while Tom took the trail along the top of the hill. Almost an hour into their hike Les had found a wine bottle that had only pieces of the label on it and further down, a beer bottle that was matched to be the same ones from the family’s van. Not too far from the wine bottle he found diary pages that had German writing on them. Les continued walking and came across human bones. Cornelia’s wallet and ID were found nearby.
The pair hiked back to camp and informed the people at base what they discovered. The following day multiple law enforcements made their way to the scene to remove the remains. Since only Cornelia was found the Inyo a search party was formed over the next few weeks.
This search would turn up more remains and evidence proving the family was in the area. The Inyo Sheriff’s office had determined that there was not enough DNA in the bones to conclusively determine who the bones belonged to, only that it was an adult male and an adult female.
The results of the DNA test came back early in March. Determined to bring closure to the case, Tim was back searching on March 23, 2010. On his hike he had found broken sunglasses and a set of keys. He did not find any signs on the children on this search or on the subsequent searches he would go on.
Around December 2010, the Inyo Sheriff’s Office conducted another search. On this search they had found children’s shoes and small bones.
DNA testing has proven that the male remains were Egbert’s. In December 2010, the female and children’s skeletal remains were sent to a laboratory in an attempt to identify them. There has never been an official document that the children’s bones were found. The skeletal remains have never been definitively identified.
This case would not have been solved without the determination of Tom Mahood. He had put a lot of time and effort into bring closure to the missing, and the families of the deceased. To read the incredible story of his search click here .