Troopers send down divers to search for missing teen

Posted: Tuesday, April 25, 2000

The search continues today for the body of Travis Mason, 16, who fell into waters off the tip of the Mendenhall Peninsula about midnight Friday when a personal watercraft capsized.

The Alaska State Troopers today planned to lower two commercial divers in the area where the watercraft was last seen, and will also use an underwater camera. The water's depth in the area ranges from 25 to 40 feet, said trooper Sgt. Will Ellis.

A memorial fund for Mason has been set up at Key Bank to help defray the costs of the memorial expense, the family said. Any remaining funds will be donated to a charity of the family's choosing.

It's not clear what sort of investigation will follow the incident. Juneau Police Sgt. Troy Wilson said today the troopers will be the lead agency in an investigation.

But Ellis said the troopers aren't engaged in a criminal investigation. The capsizing occurred in the city's jurisdiction, he said. ``We are working this solely as a search and rescue.''

Greg Wilkinson, a Anchorage-based spokesman for the troopers, said any charges would have to come from police.

The Coast Guard's Marine Safety Office in Juneau will try to determine the root cause of the casualty, said Lt. Eric Bauer. The agency's purpose is to see if there should be any regulatory changes or public education, he said.

Bauer wouldn't rule out civil fines if the Coast Guard finds any regulatory violations, such as not wearing flotation devices, not carrying distress signals or driving at night without lights. But he said people often aren't fined after incidents like this because they've already learned their lesson.

The watercraft capsized late Friday night as Diamond Bevegni, 20, was transporting Mason from North Douglas to Little Suedla Island, where about 12 youths were camping, some campers said.

When the watercraft was late, some youths set out in a skiff in the cold, rainy and snowy weather, and found a hypothermic Bevegni on Spuhn Island. They warmed him up at their campsite before taking him by skiff to the mainland.

The youths spent the early morning hours Saturday in skiffs and on land looking for Mason. They were joined by Coast Guard helicopters and boats, troopers and private citizens. Search dogs detected a human scent in waters near Spuhn Island where the watercraft capsized.

The Coast Guard reported Bevegni was treated at Bartlett Regional Hospital. But in fact, Bevegni was checked by emergency medical technicians at Smugglers Cove, near the intersection of Fritz Cove Road and Fox Farm Road, and released, said Lt. Jerry Godkin of Capital City Fire and Rescue.

``(Bevegni) arrived at our ambulance in dry clothes,'' Godkin said today. ``He was checked out -- blood pressure, his vitals and so forth. He had already been re-warmed on the island, so we released him.''

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