PROSPECT, Maine — Efforts resumed Wednesday in the search for the remains of a Searsport District High School freshman who jumped from the Penobscot Narrows Bridge the previous afternoon.
Waldo County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Robert Keating said the rescue effort to find the 14-year-old Stockton Springs male were suspended shortly after dark Tuesday night. He said the Maine State Police dive team, Marine Patrol and U.S. Coast Guard were back on the Penobscot River early Wednesday looking for the boy’s remains.
“At this point it’s a recovery effort,” Keating said.
Witnesses reported seeing a male jump off the bridge at approximately 3 p.m. Tuesday. A Rockland couple told sheriff’s deputies and rescue personnel that they were traveling in the northbound lane of the bridge toward Verona Island when the vehicle in front of them stopped at about the middle of the bridge and the male operator exited the vehicle and jumped from the bridge into the river below.
Another witness told officers that he was in the observatory parking lot beneath the bridge on the river’s edge and observed the male go into the water.
The travel deck of the cable state suspension bridge is about 155 feet from the surface of the river at high tide. According to tide charts, high tide in Bucksport was at 5:11 p.m., a couple of hours after the youth was seen jumping from the bridge.
Boats from Prospect Fire-Ambulance and Bucksport Fire-Ambulance responded, along with boats from the Marine Patrol and Coast Guard. A Coast Guard helicopter and Marine Patrol fixed-wing airplane also joined the search efforts. An approximately 20-mile stretch of the river, both upstream and downstream, was examined before the search was suspended at 7 p.m.
Keating said he could not release the name of the boy at this time because authorities needed a body to substantiate identification. He added, however, that the vehicle the boy drove onto the bridge belonged to a family member and that officers already had met with the boy’s parents. Detective Merl Reed was heading up the investigation, he said.
By midafternoon there was still no sign of the missing youth and Keating declined to speculate if the recovery effort would be successful.
“The currents are very strong in that river and they move very swiftly,” he said. “In the past that has always hampered efforts to find someone.”
That was the case a year ago when a disoriented 17-year-old male Bucksport High School student either fell or jumped from the bridge on the evening in March 5, 2007.
In that situation, divers spent three days searching for the body of Harrison Damon of Orland, but his body never was recovered. A foot found inside a sneaker five months later in a tide pool some eight miles downriver at Moose Point State Park in Searsport was later identified as Damon’s through DNA testing. Until Tuesday, Damon was the only person known to have jumped or fallen from the new bridge.