‘A big thank you’: Teen’s family grateful for aloha, support to ensure she came home

In the desperate search for 15-year-old Mikella Debina, Hawaii police officers worked leads that stretched from one side of the Big Island to the other.
Published: Sep. 19, 2022 at 6:23 AM HST|Updated: Sep. 19, 2022 at 7:13 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In the desperate search for 15-year-old Mikella Debina, Hawaii police officers worked leads that stretched from one side of the Big Island to the other.

She was ultimately rescued by good Samaritans at a Hilo cafe.

Capt. Thomas Shopay, of the Hawaii County Police Department, said coordination with Debina’s family was a crucial part in their investigation.

Paige Groff is Debina’s cousin and said she is in good spirits and happy to be reunited with her family.

“We hugged and she went on to hug the next family member,” said Groff. “My fiancée made a comment saying that she didn’t think she was ever going to get to do that again.”

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Groff was one of the dozens of people Saturday looking for Debina at Anaehoomalu Bay.

He was searching from the air.

“Anaehoomalu Bay all the way to Kiholo Bay is nothing but lava fields, lava tubes everywhere, brush, very thick brush,” described Groff. “So it was very challenging to look in specific areas, but it definitely helped being able to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time.”

Groff works for Paradise Helicopters, which is the same company that flew Debina’s family from Kona to Hilo after the teen was found.

Police made sure they had crews in the land, air and sea with help from HFD, Blue Hawaiian Helicopters and the public.

“This is one of the few times I’ve been able to participate and see this type of outpouring,” said Groff.

Shortly before noon Saturday, Debina was found safe at Cafe Pesto Hilo Bay by two good Samaritans.

“That’s incredible ... that’s people standing up and doing the right thing versus turning a blind eye,” said Shopay. A few hours later, police arrested 52-year-old Duncan Mahi in Hilo.

Shopay said they found Mahi through leads from the community and Debina.

“And that really was a team effort with the community, our first responders and everybody,” said Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth. “I’m really proud of the work that everybody did.”

“Just a big thank you to all of them and this is coming from me and my family,” added Groff.

Hawaii Police said the investigation is ongoing and are working closely with law enforcement to determine Mahi’s charges.