DRESDEN, Maine — The worst of circumstances led to the best of outcomes Thursday when a missing 12-year-old Dresden boy was found cold and scared but alive and well after a night spent lost on the shore of the Eastern River.
Micah Thomas, who disappeared Wednesday after being dropped off by a school bus near his home at Eagle Lodge Lane, told rescuers Thursday afternoon that he knew people were searching for him as darkness fell Wednesday night.
“He knew he was being looked for. He said he tried hollering to the searchers but he got hoarse,” said Maj. Gregg Sanborn of the Maine Warden Service. “Basically, he spent the night in the wilderness on the shore of the river.”
Dozens of searchers spent Wednesday night and most of Thursday searching for Thomas about three miles from his home on East Pittston Road, where someone had spotted him about an hour after he disappeared.
At 2 p.m. Thursday, just as Maine Warden Service Lt. Kevin Adam was telling reporters that searchers hadn’t found anything, Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Rand Maker came over and whispered to Adam that Micah had been located moments before.
According to Sanborn, a volunteer searcher on foot saw the boy from across the Eastern River just as a Maine Marine Patrol boat was coming close. The volunteer waved down the boat, which then took Micah to the safety of his mom and stepfather, Laura and Peter Thomas. Sanborn said the boy’s lower half of his body was wet and that he had removed his boots — a sign that hypothermia was setting in.
“He’s very lucky,” said Sanborn. “It’s a good thing we found him today.”
Adam said the search on Thursday had concentrated on the east side of the river because that’s where Micah was seen last.
“I don’t know how he got across the river,” said Adam. “He was wet from the waist down.”
Maria Morris of West Bath, who is Micah’s grandmother, said the boy’s family endured Wednesday night in terror.
“It was horrible, the worst night of my life,” she said. Members of the family spent much of the time driving local roads, looking for the boy. The good news came by a phone call. Rob Morris, Micah’s grandfather, said the relief was intense and immediate.
“There’s still a lot of pent-up emotion in here,” said Morris as Micah was being checked by medical personnel in a nearby ambulance. “We were hoping for the best and here it’s happened so we’re lucky and he’s a lucky boy. He’s a smart kid. He may have made a bad decision initially but apparently he didn’t do so bad.”
Sanborn said Micah told him that he’d been angry about something, which is why he ran away.
“Basically he was upset and he took off,” said Sanborn. “He was very glad to be found, though.”
According to a comment posted on the Bangor Daily News website Thursday, Micah had been involved in a fight on a school bus Wednesday, though another commenter who claimed to be a teacher said there was no evidence the boy has ever been a bullying victim.
The Morrises said Thursday afternoon they hadn’t had a chance to talk to their grandson yet, but Rob Morris said Micah flashed a smile, the only indication Morris needed that the boy is going to be OK.
Micah, who at the height of the search had more than 50 people looking for him from numerous law enforcement and rescue agencies, was taken to a hospital to be treated for possible mild hypothermia.
Micah had been wearing L.L. Bean boots, bluejeans and a blue Aeropostale hooded sweatshirt when he disappeared Wednesday. Searchers using tracking dogs Thursday morning had followed footprints in the snow believed to have been left by Micah. The prints were the right size and from the right make of boot to have been made by the boy, Adam said.
A search dog attempting to follow the tracks caught a human scent but later lost it, Adam said.
On Thursday morning, about 50 people — using dogs, boats and aircraft — continued the search for Micah. In addition to the Warden Service and Marine Patrol, personnel from the Maine Forest Service, Maine State Police Computer Crimes Unit, Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department, Dresden Fire Department and the private Maine Search and Rescue participated in the search.
Rob Morris said the events Wednesday and Thursday will go down in family lore for generations to come.
“It will be an interesting conversation when things are settled down and we all get home,” he said.