June 23, 2018
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Officials suspend search for teen bridge jumper

By Walter Griffin

PROSPECT, Maine — The search for the body of the Searsport District High School freshman who jumped from the Penobscot Narrows Bridge on Tuesday afternoon has been suspended for the time being.

Waldo County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Bob Keating said the search was officially suspended at approximately 1:30 p.m. Friday and would remain so at least through the weekend.

The search had been a joint effort of the Maine Marine Patrol and U.S. Coast Guard, with the Coast Guard vessel Guardian serving as the command post. The Marine Patrol’s fixed-wing aircraft also took part in the search, he said.

“They searched pretty diligently for three days and at this point they have suspended the search,” Keating said.

Witnesses reported seeing 14-year-old Mark Thomas Jr. of Stockton Springs 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 left the vehicle and jumped from the bridge into the river.

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-stayed 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 Thomas was seen jumping from the bridge.

Boats from Prospect Fire-Ambulance and Bucksport Fire-Ambulance responded Tuesday and mounted a rescue effort along with boats from the Marine Patrol and Coast Guard. A Coast Guard helicopter and a Marine Patrol plane also joined the search efforts. An approximately 20-mile-long stretch of the river upstream and down-stream was examined before the search was suspended that evening.

On Wednesday, the search team, including divers from the Maine State Police dive team returned to the river and conducted an extensive search. They resumed their efforts for another two days before calling off the search on Friday.

Keating said the vehicle that Thomas drove onto the bridge belonged to a family member. He said officers had been in contact with members of his family throughout. Detective Merl Reed is investigating the case.



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