Rocky Mountain National Park responds to comments made by missing cadet candidate's family

MISSING: Micah Tice. Photo courtesy USAFA

The family of a missing cadet candidate spoke publicly on Friday pleading for help from President Donald Trump and Colorado's governor. They also called out the National Park Service claiming not enough was done to search for Micah.

A member of the family claimed the National Park Service did not request help in the search from Fort Carson, despite Fort Carson's willingness to help.

The family is asking the public to "flood" local political leaders with calls for more help to search for Micah Tice. They thanked hikers from the community who have helped them search. The full press conference can be watched below:

Rocky Mountain National Park provided 11 News with the following statement after the comments made by Tice's family:

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.

Ground resources needed on a daily basis were fulfilled from park staff and numerous partner agencies. Per the park’s request, the Colorado Search and Rescue Board provided a review on day four of search efforts and concurred with the ongoing operation and resource levels.

Military assets used have included helicopter support from the Colorado Air National Guard, cell phone analysis from Air Force Resource Coordination Center (AFRCC), and the mountaineering club from USAFA. Rocky Mountain National Park was not contacted by Fort Carson to provide assistance.

Regarding the cell phone transaction data that is referenced in their news conference this information was oversimplified. 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 cell phone data was requested early in the investigation, and received on Thursday, November 29. Cell phone data provided broad areas of potential transactions but is vague information given the limitations of the signal in that area. These transactions are not “pings” nor texts nor phone calls. This information indicates the cell phone was picking up a signal early Sunday morning. The large area referenced in the news conference has been challenging to access due to extreme winter alpine conditions and terrain.

On Sunday, December 2, there was finally an improvement in weather. This area was flown by Colorado Air National Guard helicopters and tracks were identified. These tracks were considered a good clue to pursue and ground teams were directed to search a lower area where the tracks led. These potential tracks were also searched the following day, Monday, December 3, and were finally ruled out, with no further clues.

Further search activities related to this area occurred today with rescuers and a search dog in the drainages below that particular zone of interest. There were no additional clues. The upper alpine portion is planned to be searched tomorrow, with appropriate personnel as conditions allow.

The family referenced ‘shelters,’ there are no shelters but innumerable large boulders.

Regarding comments made pertaining to the Albert SAR - Rocky Mountain National Park is the fourth most visited national park and last year was the third busiest park for search and rescue operations in the country. We have some of the most experienced and trained search and rescue professionals in the country. We are also grateful for the strong partnerships we have with other professional search and rescue organizations in the state who are composed of dedicated volunteers. Our staff are accustomed to more than one hundred incidents a year. The Albert SAR was similar in duration and resources. There are differences in the two incidents with regards to objectives and tactics. In no way did the search for Ryan Albert impact our resources on the search for Micah.

The search operations for Micah have had broad agency review and input, including partner rescue organizations. All reviews conducted have supported the ongoing search operation.

Snowfall and high winds in this extreme high mountain terrain make finding clues to Tice’s whereabouts even more difficult. In the absence of additional clues, active broad scale search operations were suspended on December 4, after seven days of field searching. However, limited search activities will occur during winter months as conditions allow, such as today and tomorrow.

A search and rescue mission was suspended on Tuesday for an Air Force Academy cadet hopeful who went on a hike and never came home.

Micah Tice, 20, who attends the United States Air Force Academy Preparatory School, told his parents on the night of Friday, Nov. 23 that he was going to do some schoolwork and possibly go hiking the following day. His phone signal was last received on Nov. 24 near Woodmen and I-25, and he failed to show up to class that Monday morning. On that same day, Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) rangers found Tice's vehicle at the Longs Peak trailhead.

Late last week, park visitors notified the Rocky Mountain National Park Search and Rescue Team that they had hiked with Tice for 20 minutes on the morning of Saturday, Nov. 24 and had parted ways in the Battle Mountain area. The National Park Service says there was a lot of snow on the day with extremely high winds and cold temperatures, and the hikers confirmed the conditions were deteriorating when they split up from Tice.

Over the weekend of Dec. 1-2, several search and rescue agencies searched the mountain by ground and by air -- the aerial search being the first attempted since Tice went missing due to less-than-favorable conditions during the last week of November. National Park Service says Saturday's efforts included: Battle Mountain, the Boulder Field, the Keyhole Route, the south side of Longs Peak, Peacock Pool, Mount Lady Washington, Half Mountain and the upper part of the Roaring Fork Drainage. Rocky Mountain Rescue, Alpine Rescue Team, Douglas County Search and Rescue, Grand County Search and Rescue, Larimer County Search and Rescue, Colorado Search and Rescue Board, Summit County Rescue Group Dog Team, and Front Range Rescue Dogs assisted Rocky Mountain National Park Search and Rescue.

Larimer County Search and Rescue tweeted Monday morning that the search remained active.

Micah's mom spoke with 11 News on Thursday as search efforts continued.

"We think he’s hunkered down somewhere when the weather gets tough," Janice Tice explained. "And I think he’s trying to move during the day."

Micah's mom wanted to make it clear time is of the essence.

"The amount of rescuers is increasing every day, and we still need more," Janice stated. "We’re calling in the troops. We’re calling in whoever has the skills we need, we need you, we need you, we need you now."

Park rangers would like to hear from anyone who has been in the Longs Peak area since Saturday morning or who may have had contact with Tice regarding his planned route on Longs Peak. Please call Rocky Mountain National Park at 970-586-1204.

Over a week crews searched a 10-square mile area.

Very few clues have been discovered during search efforts. Depending on the search area and day, team members have encountered harsh winter conditions including extreme winds, low visibility, bitter wind chills, below freezing temperatures, deep snow and high avalanche danger.

Snowfall and high winds in this extreme high mountain terrain make finding clues to Tice’s whereabouts even more difficult. Tice was reportedly wearing black clothing. In the absence of additional clues, active search operations have been suspended. Limited search activities may occur during winter months if conditions allow.