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Family photograph of Matthew Miller, 16, from Walnut Creek. The bodies of Matthew Miller and friend Gavin Powell, 17, from Walnut Creek, were discovered today by search crews after both teens were reported missing yesterday. The teens apparently drowned after going rafting in a rain-swollen creek Saturday. (Miller Family/Special to the Times)

CONCORD -- Searchers on Sunday found the bodies of two Walnut Creek teens who drowned after going rafting in a rain-swollen creek Saturday.

Authorities said that Matthew Miller, 16, and Gavin Powell, 17, both of Walnut Creek, tried to negotiate the water in a two-person inflatable craft when the fatal accident took place.

The boys' bodies were found about a mile apart, several miles from where they were thought to have launched. Miller's body was found about 11:30 a.m., near Highway 4 and Imhoff Drive in Concord, while Powell's was discovered at 1:30 p.m. near Stanwell Drive and Bisso Lane in Concord.

Search crews found the boys' deflated raft early Sunday near Bancroft Road and Bentley Street in Concord. The creek flows through an underground channel for about a mile, and emerges in that location spot.

Miller and Powell started their rafting trip about 2 p.m. Saturday in a nearby creek, launching their craft near Murwood Elementary in Walnut Creek. The teens had helmets with them, but they did not have life preservers.

About 4 p.m., the teens called a friend to meet them at a specific location. They never arrived, and the friend left, assuming that someone else had picked the boys up.

Their families reported the boys missing just after midnight. Rescue teams decided to wait till daybreak to begin their efforts because of the dangers of conducting a search in fast moving waters under darkness.


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Sunday's search involved nearly 100 personnel, including divers and a helicopter who combed the waterways in Walnut Creek and Concord.

During the rainy season, the frigid creek becomes especially treacherous, according to Contra Costa sheriff's Lt. Eric Navarro.

"When we had the recent rains, it made the creek swell," he said. "It becomes very fast moving, but what's even more dangerous are the debris that are in the water -- branches, rocks, you can think of any other kind of debris that's in there causing problems and obstructions."

Water level varies in the creek and can reach depths of 15 feet in places, Navarro added.

The creek is not meant to be assessable to the public and is fenced off in many places.

Julie Miller, Matthew's mother said that her son, a junior at Las Lomas High School, was a good student with various interests. She said Matthew played piano and harpsichord, and was a talented artist. He also volunteered with the Amigos de Las Americas. He went to Nicaragua this past summer to teach computer skills to residents in a small community there.

"He was just a nice, great person who was nice to everyone," Julie Miller said.

Matthew and Gavin were best friends and had been for many years, she added. They enjoyed biking and hiking together.

Gavin's relatives declined to comment.

Two people drowned in the creek in April after they lost control of their car and swerved into the water. One of the victim's bodies traveled six miles and was discovered in a spot near where the boys' bodies were found.

Officials and volunteers Sunday expressed deep sadness at the teens' deaths.

"All of us have done things in our lives that you look back on and think, I got away with one," Navarro said. "I just feel horrible for the kids and for the family."

Staff writer Sophia Kazmi contributed to this report. Contact Hannah Dreier at 925-779-7174. Follow her at Twitter.com/hannahdreier.

memorial service
A memorial service for Matthew Miller will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday at Congregation B'nai Tikvah, 25 Hillcroft Way, Walnut Creek.