Bangor police, firefighters rescue woman after plunge

Posted March 18, 2009, at 11:11 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Another hour and the outcome could have been much different Tuesday night for a woman who plunged from the Washington Street Bridge to the ice-covered Kenduskeag Stream below.

It wasn’t clear Wednesday if the woman, whose name was not being released, jumped or fell.

What is clear is that she fell a distance of 15 to 20 feet before landing in a pool of water on top of a still-frozen section of the Kenduskeag Stream, according to Bangor police Officer Tim Shaw, who was the first rescuer to arrive on the scene.

Had the woman fallen or jumped from the opposite side of the bridge, she would have landed in open water and could easily have been swept downstream, Shaw said Wednesday.

According to Shaw, the rescue operation began about 10 p.m., when Shaw was flagged down by a man near the Washington Street Bridge. The man told Shaw that a woman had just fallen from the bridge and was lying on the ice.

“She was twisted right up and she was screaming for help,” Shaw said Wednesday.

Shaw called for assistance and immediately went out onto the ice, followed by Officers Robert Hutchings and Doug Smith.

With spring on the way, what ice remains on the Kenduskeag is getting thin. None of the officers was sure that the ice would hold up, Shaw said.

“When I got out onto it, I could hear it cracking under me. I looked upstream and I could see ice chunks floating in the open water,” said Shaw, who has been a member of the city police force for two years.

“At that point, we really weren’t thinking [about our own personal safety]. I was thinking, ‘If she goes under the ice, she’s done,’” Shaw said. “There’s never a perfect situation [for a rescue], but if I had to do it again, I would.”

The three police officers remained on the ice with the woman until Bangor firefighters arrived with cold water rescue gear about four or five minutes later. Shaw said the firefighters strapped the woman onto a stretcher and put her into an awaiting ambulance.

“We went back there about an hour afterward and the place where we were at was underwater,” Shaw said.

According to Sgt. Paul Edwards, the police department’s public information officer, the woman was taken to Eastern Maine Medical Center’s emergency room for treatment.

Though Edwards said it wasn’t clear to him exactly how the woman wound up on the ice, he said there were indications that the woman “purposely jumped over the railing of the bridge in an attempt to kill herself.”

He said Wednesday that no further information about her condition was available, but that her injuries were not life-threatening.

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