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The Panamint Breeze is a quarterly newsletter dedicated to the exploration and history of Butte Valley and its desert surroundings.

I have subscribed since its inception, back in 1994, when it was called the Butte Valley Bugle. The German tourist story first appeared in the Spring 1997 edition of the Bugle.

Here is the back page from the current issue (December 2009) of the Panamint Breeze. More evidence that at least one of the missing German tourists has been found and identified:


For those of you interested in this area, please consider a subscription. Each issue covers a wide variety of topics and the articles are both entertaining and informative.

A final bit of irony...

In Post #10, I reviewed the history of the Geologist’s Cabin, built by Wallace Todd and William Fison.

The man who first introduced them to Butte Valley was Dr. John Eliot Wolff, a retired professor of geology from Harvard University. Shortly after his retirement, in 1923, he moved to Pasadena, California.

Dr. Wolf spent a substantial amount of time exploring the Butte Valley area, researching the route of the Manly Party of 1849-50. In 1931, he published an article on his theories of this route in and out of Death Valley. He was also responsible for the naming of Manly Falls, Manly Peak and Manly Pass.

Dr. Wolf introduced Todd and Fison to miner Karl Mengel, who sold them his Anvil Spring claim for $400, and, in 1935, they began to build the cabin. Mengel died in 1944 and is buried at the top of Mengel Pass, under a stone monument.

Dr. Wolf died in August 1940, at the age of 83, in the desert east of Lancaster, California.

How did he die? His car became trapped in the sand and he was unable to survive in the desert heat. In spite of decades of experience exploring the desert, he too became another victim of this beautiful but unforgiving landscape.
 

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Death Valley bones may belong to missing tourists

December 8, 2009

DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (AP) — Sheriff's officials say they've found more bones in Death Valley that may be the remains of four German tourists who vanished 13 years ago.

Inyo County sheriff's spokeswoman Carma Roper said Tuesday that a weekend search turned up the bones in the same remote area where two hikers found skeletal remains last month.

The coroner's office hasn't identified those remains but ID from one of the tourists was found nearby.

Dresden resident Cornelia Meyer; her 4-year-old son; her boyfriend, Egbert Rimkus, and his 10-year-old son vanished in 120-degree heat during a trip to the Mojave Desert park in 1996.

A massive search found no sign of them. Months later, their rented minivan was found abandoned in a sandy ravine. Its tires were shredded.
 

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Thanks Vinegarroon,

now we are all very curious where the bones really were and in which distance from each other. I wonder wether there were remains of clothing and other things too.

Ernesto
 

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It appears the remaining three members have been found.

From the Idyllwild Town Crier:

Breaking News: More remains discovered in Death Valley

More remains discovered in Death Valley

December 10, 2009


Posted by Marshall Smith

According to a press release released by the Inyo County Sheriff's Department, a multi-agency search mission took place Dec. 5 and 6 to discover remains of the three missing members of a party of German tourists lost in July 1996 in Death Valley.

Additional remains were found and, as with the remains discovered by Les Walker and Tom Mahood believed to be those of Cornelia Meyer, they will be turned over to the Inyo County Coroner's office for forensic identification.

Agencies identified as participating in the search are Inyo County Search and Rescue, Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit (RMRU), China Lake Mountain Rescue Group, San Bernardino Desert Search and Rescue, Calaveras County Search and Rescue, National Park Service and U.S. Customs.

Unofficial reports indicate that enough remains were discovered to identify the remaining three, Max Meyer, 4, Connie's son, her boyfriend Egbert Rimkus, 33, and his son Georg Weber, 10.

Eight RMRU personnel participated in the search including Walker.

The remains were all in a location about 9 miles from the Germans' rental van and about 3 miles from the boundary of the China Lake Naval Weapons Testing Center, the destination the Germans were apparently trying to reach.

Further updates and information will be posted when made available.
 

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Search team finds more remains in Death Valley

The Inyo Register

Bishop, California

December 10, 2009

By Mike Bodine
Register Staff

Additional remains have been located in Death Valley, believed to belong to one or more of the four German tourists who went missing in the park in 1996.

The remains were discovered during a search conducted the weekend of Dec. 5-6.

The multi-agency search included members of the Inyo County Search and Rescue, Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit, China Lake Mountain Rescue Group, San Bernardino Desert Search and Rescue, Calaveras County Search and Rescue, the National Park Service and U.S. Customs.

According to a Sheriff’s Department press release, the remains will be turned over to the Inyo County Coroner’s Office for identification.

Jeff Mullenhour, deputy coroner and the man who handles Southern Inyo County cases, said Wednesday that the most important part is to correctly identify the bones – be they human or animal, adult or adolescent. The bones could very well be those of the four German tourists, but they could also belong to one of the other many missing parties to have vanished in the park over the decades.

He said the Coroner’s Office will be taking its time and be as thorough as possible to make sure the remains are correctly identified.

“Right now, we’re not exactly sure what they are,” Mullenhour explained. “They are part of an ongoing forensic investigation, being handled by qualified professionals in forensics.”

It is still premature to determine whether there is enough DNA to be obtained from the pieces, but it will be a huge factor in identifying the bone fragments.

In 1996, an exhaustive search for the tourists resulted in no leads and the investigation being suspended. A handful of other searches, some public, some private, have been conducted in the following years, but with no luck.

Then in November 2009, two Riverside Search and Rescue members, Les Walker and Tom Mahood, took it upon themselves to reinvestigate the case.

Through hindsight and going off the extensive set of notes and data collected from the initial search, Mahood and Walker found remains and some identification that belonged to one of the German tourists.

The complete story, with a picture:

Bishop - Search team finds more remains in Death Valley
 

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Thank you to all who provided this fascinating read. Now I have to visit Death Valley! I researched the NPS website and just found TONS of stuff to see and do. Looks like a February/March trip to DV is in the works!
 

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Coroner: bones belong to missing German tourist

By Mike Bodine
The Inyo Register
Bishop, California

June 17, 2010




The Inyo County Coroner’s Office has announced that bones found in the remote Goler Wash area (above) have been positively identified as belonging to 28-year-old Egbert Rimkus (inset), one of four German tourists who vanished in Death Valley in 1996. Other bones have been found but none linked to Rimkus’ son Georg Weber (also inset) or Rimkus’ girlfriend and her son. Photos courtesy San Bernardino Sun.

Bones found by investigators in Death Valley National Park have been positively identified as being those of Egbert Rimkus, one of four tourists from Germany who went missing in 1996.

Other bones have been identified as being those of an adult female, but were too dry to render enough genetic material for DNA analysis.

Rimkus, along with his 10-year-old son, Georg Weber, Rimkus’ girlfriend, 28-year-old Cornelia Meyer, and her son, Max, 4, were last seen in Death Valley during a recordbreaking heat wave in July of 1996. There whereabouts have been a mystery until November 2009 when two off-duty Riverside Search and Rescue team members, Les Walker and Tom Mahood, discovered bones and identification linked to the missing tourists.

There have been no bones found that have been identified as belonging to human children. Inyo County Deputy Coroner Jeff Mullenhour said Tuesday that he was very specific when he said, “human,” as many of the bones that had been collected were deemed “indescribable.” He said, as the Southern Inyo coroner, it is not uncommon for him to receive unidentified or unidentifiable bones from Death Valley.

Some of the other bones belonging to an adult female “had been out in the desert too long” and were too dry to extract enough DNA material to make a positive identification, Mullenhour said.

Since the November discovery, Inyo County sheriff’s investigators and Search and Rescue team members have made three separate searches in as many locations collecting bones and other possible clues. The search is being conducted in the Anvil Canyon Springs and Goler Wash areas of Death Valley. The area is rugged and remote four-wheel drive country – it took Mahood six hours to get to the site from Furnace Creek.

The van belonging to the tourists was found in 1996, but the tourists themselves seemingly vanished with only scant clues left behind. Many conspiracy theories grew from the disappearance, especially given the fact that no remains of the tourists themselves had been found.

Current Undersheriff Jim Jones, who was the lead investigator for the case 13 years ago, said the demise of the tourists was obvious. That year, Death Valley experienced a record 40 consecutive days of 120 temperatures. And, he said in November that he was not surprised it had taken so long for clues to start emerging due to the vastness of the largest national park south of Alaska at 3.4 million acres.

And, bones can move. They can walk away inside the belly or jaws of a predator or scavenger or get washed away by rains or flash flooding.
Sheriff’s investigators are planning future searches, but Mullenhour said he didn’t know when those would be.

Mullenhour said Rimkus’ family in Germany has been notified.

The link to The Inyo Register story: Bishop - Coroner: bones belong to missing German tourist
 

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I drove through and explored this area in Feb. 2007. Also stayed in the Geologist's Cabin. Saw some wild Burros and one other truck as I was coming out via Warm Springs Canyon. This is empty country and you either need to be prepared to hike out or stay put and wait for someone to find you. A case of water bottles, some food and a map could make all the difference.

I want to thank Vinegarroon and his friend for watching over the Geologist's Cabin all these years. That place has been home to many people over the years and is certainly one of my favorite places to camp in Death Valley.
 

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I remember when these folks disappeared. How sad it was. I am glad they found their remains and their families know what happened to them. I can only imagine the horror that they went through. Let it be a lesson to us all. I've been through there before and never would I go back without a satellite phone, a ton of water, a GPS, a couple of spare tires, repair supplies for my truck, a buddy in another vehicle to travel with, and enough gas to get me out and back a couple of times. Yeah, I'm paranoid... but I've been stuck in the middle of nowhere before and it is horrifying.
 

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I stumbled across a blog from the guy that found the remains and how he found them:
The Hunt for the Death Valley Germans
Wow that took a while to read. But it was very interesting to me. Having grown up very close to that area. As a kid we would take our dirt bikes out in to the desert for hours on end with no water or ways to communicate. I

It scares me now that I am older and wiser. I try to be as prepared as possible and I always make sure my family knows what part of the desert I am playing in. I still have a few items that I would like to add for safety sake. Either a Ham radio or a SPOT device.
 

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Read it on Friday. Like 2bikemike said, took awhile. In retrospect, they should have gone to that cabin where they signed in. At least it had water & shelter.
 

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Wow - that was actually incredibly interesting. I've not spent time in the desert like that, but I've done a fair bit of backpacking for extended periods of time (several weeks) and these kind of stories are exactly the reason that I never, ever skimp on preparations when going out into the backcountry.
 

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Came across this thread a few days ago. Definitely a good read, very interesting and entertaining. Of course not the tragedy of the family but you all know what I mean. It does make me wonder though what happened that made them find bones in different locations and other evidence.
 

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Came across this thread a few days ago. Definitely a good read, very interesting and entertaining. Of course not the tragedy of the family but you all know what I mean. It does make me wonder though what happened that made them find bones in different locations and other evidence.
I've read these types of accounts before. The reason they're in different locations is because they all travelled on despite the odds. That's the tragedy in all of this. If they were going to leave the vehicle at all, they should have turned and started walking back to where they drove down, rather than into the unknown.

I learned my lesson once with a friend of mine. We were backpacking alone for two weeks and kept going into the night once. At one point, we realized we had come across the same place four times in four hours. We decided to just let it go and camp. When we woke in the morning, we realized we had been hiking right by a 3000 ft cliff all night and not realized it. Exhaustion, dehydration, hysteria,etc... Can really mess you up in the backcountry.


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