Brewer firefighters rescue man, watercraft

Posted April 20, 2009, at 7:25 p.m.

BREWER, Maine — Matt Gallant wanted to take advantage of a warm-weather holiday Monday with a ride up the Penobscot River on his personal watercraft.

Things were going fine until he reached the Joshua Chamberlain Bridge.

“I was trying to do a 360 to turn around, and the engine just cut,” Gallant said shortly after he was hauled from the chilly water with help from Brewer rescue personnel. “I felt a little stupid that they had to come out for me.”

Gallant, 27, of Hampden put his personal watercraft in at Turtle Head Marina in Hampden and embarked up the river early Monday afternoon, something he said he has done dozens of times.

“It’s a celebration of spring,” he explained.

Gallant dumped his machine near the bridge between Bangor and Brewer and began floating back downstream. He said he tried swimming toward shore, but the current was strong. Gallant was wearing a wet suit and a lifejacket.

“I was never worried,” he said.

Someone saw Gallant in the water and called authorities. Brewer firefighters went to the Brewer side of the Penobscot about halfway between the Chamberlain bridge and the Veterans Memorial Bridge. A rope was thrown to Gallant, who pulled himself in. Hauling the personal watercraft to shore was a little more difficult.

“It’s awful heavy when it fills with water,” Gallant said.

The Hampden man was not hurt, but he said he might have to consider getting a new machine.

“This one is clearly a piece of crap,” he said on the riverbank, while waiting for a ride home to Hampden.

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