Heading into the winter holidays, the family of Myles Williams say they still don’t know where he is — or exactly what happened the summer day he vanished into the waters of Big Lake.
Williams, a 21-year-old Anchorage resident, was last seen by four teenage friends as they boated on the lake early the morning of July 4, Alaska State Troopers say. The group was drinking, though a breathalyzer indicated the person driving the boat was not under the influence of alcohol, according to troopers spokesperson Austin McDaniel.
The teens told troopers that Williams fell off the back of the boat near Burston Island just before 4 a.m., McDaniel said. Rescuers say that’s the deepest part of the lake.
He didn’t resurface when the boat returned for him. Troopers suspended the search on July 7, though members of the West Lakes Fire Department and Alaska Dive Search, Rescue and Recovery Team continued to look for Williams.
His body has not been found.
His mother just wants him home.
“We want to find him. We want closure,” Neicha McCray said, her emotions still raw. “I want to sleep at night.”
McCray described her son as a happy, outgoing person who smiled easily. He’d had some struggles with alcohol but was working on sobriety. Williams had a good job at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport and a “dream” truck: a lifted Ford F-350 diesel.
“He left an impression on your heart. That was him,” she said. “He didn’t care what color, what was wrong with you if you had a disability. He didn’t notice those things.”
About two weeks ago, one of the girls on the boat shared a photo of Williams just moments before he disappeared, McCray said. “He looked really peaceful and really happy.”
Family members say they still don’t quite understand what happened that morning.
Initial reports said Williams bought alcohol for the underage group but his mother said that’s not true: One of the girls in the group with him had her own liquor and the others were already drinking when he arrived, she said.
Thomas Fuller, Williams’ grandfather, said troopers shared two brief video clips from the morning he disappeared.
The videos, which Fuller shared with the Daily News, show Williams in the lake, apparently treading water and waving his arms. It’s light enough to see clearly. A female is laughing as music plays. One of the clips makes it look like the boat is moving away from Williams.
That doesn’t look like a rescue, Fuller said in a recent interview. There are also questions about just where Williams disappeared. His truck was found near Mirror Lake, not Big Lake.
“I don’t care what I have to do. I’m going to find out exactly what happened to my grandson,” he said. “I put way too much time into that kid for it to go down like this.”
The troopers are aware of the family’s concerns and have reviewed the videos, McDaniel said.
“When Troopers and first responders arrived at the scene, the boat was actively searching the area,” he wrote in an email.
Channels connect Big Lake, Flat Lake and Mirror Lake, allowing boats to travel between them, and it’s common for boaters to operate on all of them, McDaniel said. Members of the West Lakes Fire Department searched the shores of all three lakes without finding any sign of Williams.
Troopers reviewed the claims that circulated on social media surrounding Williams’ death and “found no evidence of foul play or any indication that he fell from the boat outside of the search area near Burston Island,” he said. “There is no indication that Williams fell from the boat at another location and that this incident is anything other than an unfortunate accident.”
He is believed to have disappeared in the same area where two snowmachiners died after they punched through ice in 2018.
The water in the area is 70 or 80 feet deep and the lake bottom is covered in 5 feet of silt that complicates search efforts, according to Jeremy Lilly, president of the nonprofit Alaska Dive Search team that has so far spent more than 200 hours looking for Williams. The group lost its primary rescue boat during the search for Williams, forcing the team to search out of a 16-foot Zodiac instead, which limited the equipment they could use.
The group plans to resume the search once the ice is thick enough to drive onto so members can drill a hole and drop a sector-scan sonar into the water.
McCray said she doesn’t think anything criminal occurred, or that her son was hurt intentionally.
But she does wonder if something went wrong accidentally and the girls with Williams that day are scared to come forward.
McCray has not seen the videos. She chose not to watch them.
“I wasn’t there. I don’t know,” she said. “But I just feel like there’s more to the story.”