Search for teen still on

State troopers using underwater camera in area where dogs found scent

Posted: Monday, April 24, 2000

The Alaska State Troopers are continuing to look for the body of Travis Mason, a 16-year-old Juneau boy who was riding a personal watercraft that capsized near Spuhn Island about midnight Friday.

Troopers today are using an underwater television camera from the Auke Bay fisheries laboratory to search an area of water, roughly 40 feet deep, off a cove on the northeast side of Spuhn Island. Search dogs had twice picked up traces of human scent there, said Bruce Bowler of the Southeast Alaska Dogs Organized for Ground Search.

It's not far from the cove where Mason's friends on early Saturday found the personal watercraft driven by Diamond Bevegni, 20, that had capsized.

``The only thing we know is that a wave hit it and it tipped over,'' said Mary Mason, Travis' mother.

A group of about 12 youths, age 16 to 20, were camping on Little Suedla Island from Friday evening on, said Jake Carte, one of the campers. Little Suedla is a small island off the tip of the Mendenhall Peninsula. Some youths had arrived by three skiffs, and others were being ferried on a personal watercraft from the north end of Douglas Island to Little Suedla, he said.

When Bevegni didn't return promptly from one crossing from North Douglas, four youths went out in a skiff from Little Suedla to look for the personal watercraft. They saw a light on Spuhn Island, a boat ride of a few minutes. It turned out to be a headlamp on Bevegni, who was badly hypothermic, said Carte. Bevegni told the youths he swam about 40 yards to shore.

As the skiff nosed up on the beach, ``all Diamond had left was to collapse in my arms, he was so hypothermic,'' Carte said. ``I figure if we were five minutes later, he wouldn't have made it.''

The youths took Bevegni, who was shaking and had blue lips, to their campsite on Little Suedla, where there was a fire. Youths also warmed him by huddling skin to skin, said Jesse Walker, one of the campers.

They soon took him by skiff to the mainland, where he was treated at Bartlett Regional Hospital and released.

The campers also went out in two skiffs, briefly circling where the capsizing had taken place, and then went on to Fritz Cove Beach on the mainland to call 911, Carte said.

Some nearby residents gave the youths two flashlights, and they went out again to look for Mason. They were soon joined by a search effort involving Coast Guard helicopters and boats, Alaska State Troopers and private citizens.

Meanwhile, through the night some of the youths combed the beach on Spuhn Island, and others looked from skiffs, Carte said. There were 2- or 3-foot seas, and it was rainy, snowy, windy and dark, Carte said.

``We stayed out there until we were damn near hypothermic ourselves,'' Carte said.

The youths found the personal watercraft washed up on Spuhn Island, and one youth jumped on it to search for Mason, Walker said.

``You don't think about the risks you're taking. If I hadn't done everything I did, I wouldn't be able to live with myself,'' Walker said.

Travis Mason was born and raised in Juneau, his family said. He attended Juneau-Douglas High School in ninth grade, had some home-schooling and had just gotten his general education certificate. He was going to attend the Seattle Art Institute in the fall, said his mother, Mary Mason. Travis was interested in creating video games or high-tech cartoons, she said.

Travis drew from an early age, Mary Mason said. ``He'd doodle all over his papers. We couldn't stop him from drawing.''

Travis also loved snowboarding with friends, and playing volleyball and basketball with family and friends, Mary Mason said.

She said she didn't just love him as a mother. ``I really liked him because he was such a fun kid, a good kid.''

Even if something was boring, somehow Travis always made it fun, said his sister, Beth.



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