Coast Guard quits search for Kake teen

Boy disappeared on hunting trip with father and another man, both of whose bodies have been found

Posted: Sunday, January 04, 2004

The Coast Guard suspended its search Saturday for a Kake teenager who disappeared during a hunting trip with his father and another man last week.

Volunteer searchers from the village plan to head out again early Sunday to continue looking for 14-year-old David Mills, Alaska State Troopers said.

"At first light they'll be back out at it," said Trooper Chris Umbs. "It's entirely up to the community when they want to stop."

Troopers will decide today whether they will continue to play a role in the search, Umbs said. The troopers have been providing state funds for food and boat fuel.

The Coast Guard, troopers and 60 to 70 local volunteers searched all day Saturday but found no sign of the boy, whose father - 43-year-old Rick Mills - was found dead Thursday at the north shore of Kupreanof Island. The body of the third member of the hunting party - 28-year Gery Davies - was found about 12 miles to the east on Friday.

Saturday's search was mostly on the ground and centered on the north side of Kupreanof Island. The site is about 10 miles north of Kake, a Tlingit village of 700.

Searchers on Saturday walked to the beaches on logging roads because high winds made it unsafe for boats to land, Umbs said. The Civil Air Patrol in Juneau sent two aircraft to search the north coast Saturday morning, said spokesman Pat Shier. The Coast Guard used a helicopter and had a cutter in the area, Umbs said.

The three hunters left Kake on Tuesday morning in a 16-foot skiff to hunt deer on the southern part of Admiralty Island. They were expected to return home that night. Mills' wife reported them missing Wednesday night, the Coast Guard said. High seas and strong winds delayed the Coast Guard's search until Thursday morning.

Umbs said both men apparently drowned. The skiff was found flipped over in the water and damaged. The bodies have been released to their families.

Rick Mills taught at Kake City Schools for 17 years, said friend and co-worker Sondra Meredith. He also coached wrestling.

"His death has pretty much affected the entire community," she said Friday.

Gary Williams, executive director of the Organized Village of Kake, the tribal government, said Mills was a "good teacher and a good heart." Mills "definitely cared about the kids and gave it his all," he said.

The Davies family did not wish to talk to reporters. Trooper Umbs said it is his understanding that Davies recently had moved to Juneau.

The mishap deeply touched Kake, prompting a rush of volunteer searchers. Several local fishing boats were enlisted, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Richard Reichenbach.

"It's a small, tight-knit village, so everyone gets out and searches," he said. "It's a difficult thing because everyone knows everyone."

Williams said Saturday that the search "was a tremendous effort, all ages and both sexes, for quite a few days now. It has been tough for the community."

"They were all wonderful people in their own way," Williams said of the three hunters. "They're certainly going to be missed. In a small community like Kake ... everybody will pull together when there's a tragedy."

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