In the morning of October 21, 1996, Death Valley National Park (DVNP) Ranger Dave Brenner was aboard a military helicopter somewhere in the skies over the southerly part of Death Valley. He was part of a routine aerial surveillance looking for clandestine drug manufacturing labs in the back country. Around 11 AM, he saw something unexpected: A vehicle in the wash of Anvil Canyon, approximately 2.4 miles downstream from Willow Spring, the head of Anvil Canyon.
Covered in dust
Upon landing nearby, Brenner inspected the vehicle. It was a green, 1996 Plymouth Voyager van with California license plates. It was covered with considerable dust, as if it had been out there for some time. The van was clearly stuck in the wash, sunk up to its axles in the sand, with its two rear tires flattened and its left front tire also flat. Tracks left in the sand by the van suggested it had been driven at least 200’ with flat rear tires. The van was locked, with no sign of the owner. Brenner noted the license number and reported it back to the DVNP headquarters.
The vehicle, owned by Dollar Rent a Car, had been rented to a group of four German tourists in Los Angeles on July 8, 1996. The vehicle had been due back to the rental agency in Los Angeles on July 26, but had never been returned. It was the rental agency’s policy to wait at least 30 days past when a vehicle was due to report it stolen.
Checking the names of the renters turned up an August 14th INTERPOL alert on them. They were Egbert Rimkus, 34, his son Georg Weber, 11, Egbert’s girlfriend Cornelia Meyer, 28, and her son Max Meyer, 4.
Further investigation showed the group left Frankfurt and arrived in the United States at Seattle on July 8, then immediately flew to Los Angeles where they picked up their rental van. Because Egbert could not produce his driver’s license, Cornelia was recorded as the driver. The van was due back on July 26th and the group had tickets on TWA to return to Germany on July 27th. They were not on that flight, nor was there evidence of them leaving the USA.
The only other clue was that in the three month period between when the Germans apparently became stuck and when the van was discovered, a ranger on patrol about 18 miles to the south found an abandoned sleeping bag in the middle of a remote dirt road.
As there was a sleeping bag from the car unaccounted for, it could Have belonged to the Germans, but no one was aware of the Germans who were at that time missing in Anvil Canyon, DVNP
The sleeping bag was disposed of as trash, so it could never be examined as evidence.
To this day, no trace of the missing Germans has been found!
This entire family’s skeletal remains were found in 2009 not far from where they abandoned the rented van in 1996. They experienced car trouble, decided to get out and walk and eventually succumbed to the heat and died.
The last sign of them was their signatures in a guest book left in a box on a metal pole at a camp site. Their entry mentioned that they were aiming to go through “the pass” – possibly the Mengel Pass, a dirt road that crosses a barren mountain range.
The skeletal remains were found several kilometres from where the group’s abandoned minivan was found in Anvil Spring Canyon, several months after they disappeared.