Rocky Mountain National Park defended its search for a missing Air Force Academy cadet candidate after his father claimed that not enough was being done to find his son.
National Park Service officials said Tuesday that the search for Micah Tice, 20, of Las Vegas would be suspended, citing “very few clues” and “harsh winter conditions.” Tice’s vehicle was found at the Longs Peak trailhead the afternoon of Nov. 26, and crews began searching in the area the next morning.
During a news conference Friday in Estes Park, Benjamin Tice pleaded for help from the public and state and federal officials, including President Donald Trump and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. He said his son could have sought shelter in an area that has not been searched.
“Limited searches were conducted and directed by the National Park Service and their search and rescue from Nov. 27 to Dec. 3 — a total of six days of boots on the ground,” Tice said. “The only six days was despite actionable intelligence given to the National Parks Service by the (Air Force Resource Coordination Center) of cellphone transactions in a zone that the National Park Service did not provide any foot coverage to. Hikers who have gone to this non-Park Service searched zone report that there are numerous shelters (where) a hiker could be protected from severe weather elements.”
Friends of the family and other experienced hikers plan to search the area again this weekend, The Denver Channel reported. They say the search will focus on areas about 10,000 feet in elevation, where activity from Micah’s cellphone was recorded Nov. 25.
Tice also claimed that his family has been denied access to additional resources in the search.
“Despite our family’s pleas with the National Park Service to request assistance from the military, and specifically Fort Carson … we were repeatedly denied and were told that the National Park Service had sufficient resources,” he said. “Despite our family’s pleas to expand the search and rescue team to provide more coverage with volunteers, we were repeatedly admonished that only their skilled resources were sufficient, and that it would be too dangerous for others.”
Rocky Mountain National Park disputed Tice’s claims, issuing the following statement late Friday:
“First and foremost, our hearts continue to go out to Micah’s family and friends. We cannot begin to understand the pain and anguish Micah’s parents must be feeling, coupled with their helplessness in wanting to find their son. We also want to find Micah.
“Rocky Mountain National Park Search and Rescue team members began our active search efforts at sunrise on Tuesday, November 27, three days after Micah was last seen. Severe blizzard conditions existed on the mountain when he left the trailhead at 6:30 a.m. on November 24, reported to be wearing sweatpants, a sweatshirt and tennis shoes. Micah had apparently not communicated his plans to anyone.
“The search for Micah has continued in severe winter conditions. The number of rescuers in the field beginning the morning of November 27 through Monday, December 3, has been appropriate given the difficulty of the high alpine environment, and the safety of the rescuers.”
Rocky Mountain National Park said military assistance in the search included Colorado Air National Guard helicopters, cellphone analysis by the Air Force Resource Coordination Center and the Air Force Academy mountaineering club.
“Regarding the cellphone transaction data that is referenced in their news conference this information was oversimplified,” the statement said. “There are several potential areas identified as ‘transactions’ where Micah’s phone may have been at around 3:35 a.m. on Sunday morning, November 25. … The large area referenced in the news conference has been challenging to access due to extreme winter alpine conditions and terrain.”
Fort Carson did not contact Rocky Mountain National Park to offer assistance, the statement said.
“Further search activities related to this area occurred (Friday) with rescuers and a search dog in the drainages below (where tracks led),” the park’s statement said. “There were no additional clues. The upper alpine portion is planned to be searched (Saturday), with appropriate personnel as conditions allow.
“The family referenced ‘shelters,’ there are no shelters but innumerable large boulders.”