Missing boy found dead; his uncle lives

By Alex MacLean, The Union Democrat

A 14-year-old Angels Camp boy was found dead Tuesday after a multi-day search for him and his uncle, who both went missing during a weekend hunting excursion in the Hermit Valley area of Alpine County.

The boy's uncle, Devin Andrew Smith, 40, of Douglas Flat, was found about 3 p.m. suffering hypothermia near Stevenot Camp in the Mokelumne Wilderness, which borders the Eldorado and Stanislaus national forests.

The body of Taylor Brent Dustin was found in the same area by search and rescue personnel roughly three hours later.

Smith was taken by air ambulance to an undisclosed hospital for medical treatment. His condition was not immediately available Tuesday night.

Both were reported overdue about 5:30 p.m. Sunday by Smith's cousin, who became separated from them at some point and called for help, according to Smith's family.

Alpine County Sheriff's Deputy Denver Stoner said crews searched all Monday and through the night.

Stoner said Tuesday morning that the urgency of finding the missing hunters had been elevated as the area was pounded by snowstorms and received about 18 inches of snow.

Search and rescue crews descended upon the area from surrounding counties including Tuolumne, Calaveras, Contra Costa and Marin. Stoner said helicopters had been unusable throughout the search due to the weather.

Smith's wife, Sabrina Smith, said during an interview prior to Tuesday's find that Dustin was her sister-in-law's son and had just moved from Manteca a week ago.

The boy's mother along with several other family members joined authorities on Tuesday's search, Smith said.

She also said her husband is an avid hunter and fisherman who had been on many trips to Hermit Valley in the past.

"He's gone there multiple times as a kid, so I don't understand how he got turned around," she said. "I never expected it to happen again."

Smith made headlines in September 2009 when he was found alive after four days missing near White Pines.

After the incident, Smith told The Union Democrat that he got lost while bear hunting and hiked for days in search of help, building fires at night to fend off hypothermia.

Contact Alex MacLean at amaclean@uniondemocrat.com or 588-4530.

The Union Democrat
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