HAMPDEN, Maine — A five-day search for a missing teenager from Hampden came to a tragic end Thursday afternoon, when a state game warden and a tracking dog found his body near a gravel pit off Back Winterport Road.
Nathan Clark, 17, was reported missing by his father about 9:30 p.m. Sunday night after he failed to return home that night, police reported earlier this week. The teenager reportedly got upset Sunday afternoon and ran off into the woods from a house he was visiting in Hampden, leading local law enforcement agencies to believe Clark was a runaway.
Word that the teen was missing triggered a search Sunday night into Monday morning that involved Hampden police and fire personnel, state police and members of the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Department, as well as search dogs.
Clark last was seen about 11 p.m. Sunday, when he was spotted in a gravel pit by a medic in a LifeFlight helicopter. After being spotted, Clark reportedly hid.
The initial search was called off about 3:30 a.m. Monday.
The search resumed later Monday, when Hampden officials called in game wardens, who used snowmobiles and an aircraft to look for the missing teen.
Concern about Clark’s well-being continued to build during the week, leading authorities to mount an intensified search on Thursday.
“He had no contact with anybody,” said Hampden police Sgt. Dan Stewart. “That became a cause for concern for us because somebody [who has run away is] going to reach out eventually.”
In the meantime, groups of 20 to 25 Hampden Academy students and graduates were out searching for Clark daily since he ran off, according to Gail McCarthy, who said Thursday that she lives across the street from the gravel pit and whose daughter was a friend of Clark’s.
Clark was at the McCarthy home before he ran off. Reasons for his being upset have not been disclosed publicly.
McCarthy said Thursday that some of the students searched on foot, some on snowmobile and others used all-terrain vehicles.
Stewart said students were calling out Clark’s name in the hope of getting a response.
“Some students had even left food out there in case he was hungry,” Stewart said.
Stewart also said that Hampden police have spent much of the week following up on numerous leads and tips, including some from psychics.
He said a number of residents called with information about shelters and lean-tos in which the missing teenager could be hiding.
Clark was found at 1:45 p.m. Thursday by state Game Warden Roger Guay and his dog, Maggie, according to Deborah Turcotte, spokeswoman for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
Stewart said that Guay and his black Labrador were among at least six search dog teams from the warden service, state police and Maine Search and Rescue Dogs that combed through the Back Winterport Road area Thursday.
At the time of his death, Clark was enrolled at Hampden Academy, where he was a member of the senior class, school officials confirmed. The schools’ crisis team has been activated and grief counseling services are being made available to the Hampden Academy students and staff.
Word of Clark’s death has hit the community hard, according to Mary Brown, a pastoral associate at St. Matthew Catholic Church in Hampden, which on Thursday opened its youth group’s meeting room to grieving teenagers.
“They needed a place to go,” Brown said late Thursday afternoon, adding that the community has lost more than its share of teenagers in recent years — at least five in the past four years, not counting Clark. Two died in motor vehicle accidents, two succumbed to illness and one to suicide.
Brown said the teenagers were joined at the church hall by school staff, including Hampden Academy Principal Ruey Yehle.
Hampden Academy junior Donovan O’Reilly was among several Hampden teenagers who went to the gravel pit Thursday afternoon and then to the youth group meeting room afterward.
“It’s been a rough couple of days,” O’Reilly said, adding that Clark was in one of his classes.
On Thursday, Clark’s body was being transported to the Office of the State Medical Examiner’s in Augusta, where an autopsy is scheduled for today, Turcotte said.
Clark’s death remains under investigation, Turcotte said.