California / Stories

Trona – the Germans Debate

As mentioned in the previous post about Trona and the Charles Manson Connection, there was also another debate between two of my readers regarding Germans.

One claims that a busload of German tourists headed to Death Valley mysteriously disappeared for three years, and was finally found when a motorist drove over a small cliff in the Trona area and found them.

The other states that the busload of German tourists is incorrect, and that in fact it was a German family who were kidnapped and murdered by two men, one from Trona and the other from Beatty.

I have been researching both claims over the past few days and what I think has happened is that both are partially correct, but that they have mixed up crucial facts with one or more other events.

A 1997 article about Death Valley in the San Bernardino Valley Sun explains that summer time is peak season for tourists to Death Valley, with the majority being from Germany and a few French and Italians. They arrive in busloads. Another article from 2003 in the Los Angeles Times describes that by that time the European tourists to the area have started to dry up. No doubt these busloads of German tourists would roll right through Trona, and maybe even once in a while they stopped to have a look around and take photos. This is probably where the confusion over the claim of a “busload of lost German tourists” comes into play.

There are zero accounts of a bus full of German tourists going missing in the desert. However, there was the case from 1996 when German tourists Egbert Rimkus, his 11-year-old son Georg Weber, Rimkus’s 27-year-old girlfriend Cornelia Meyer and her 4-year-old son Max Meyer did go missing in the desert.

Egbert Rimkus, Georg Weber, Cornelia Meyer

The family were last seen alive on July 22nd, 1996. When they failed to return home to Germany Egbert’s ex-wife became concerned. For three months nothing was found. Then, on October 21st, 1996 a Death Valley park ranger was doing surveillance from a helicopter and spotted the family’s rented minivan in a very remote area known as Anvil Canyon, which is roughly 190 miles east of Trona. The family were not found with the abandoned minivan, which upon inspection was found to have three flat tires and evidence of wheel rim damage from driving over rocky terrain with flat tires.

When over 200 searchers volunteered to look for any clues leading to the family’s whereabouts nothing was found, other than an empty beer bottle. The search was called off on October 26th, 1996. Authorities believed the family had wandered off while trying to find the main road and had died of exposures. Others had their own theories that ranged from foul play to the couple moving to South America to start a new life.

In 2009 two hikers named Les Walker and Tom Mahood decided to head out to the area and look for clues. Both men were experienced off-duty search and rescue members. They found the remains of two adults, as well as photo identification for Cornelia Meyer. No evidence of the children was found, other than the sole of a shoe. Later in 2009 the remains of Egbert Rimkus were positively identified, and at a later date a child’s clavicle bone was found, but did not contain enough DNA to test and match with living relatives. What is interesting is that the adult human remains were found in an area between Goler Wash (Canyon) and the China Lake Naval Weapons Station. The couple had managed to walk quite a distance from where their abandoned minivan had been found. If they had been able to find a way to make it the rest of the way through they very likely might have ended up in Trona.

Just a quick note: There is no evidence that this family were ever near Trona, as they had gone first to San Clemente, California straight from the LAX airport, and from there to Las Vegas. They entered Death Valley from Nevada.

Read more here: Children Still Missing and here… The Mysterious Final Moments

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