LUBEC, Maine — The State Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Thursday that a 27-year-old periwinkle harvester who was reported missing on Dec. 2, 2008, accidentally drowned. The full autopsy report is not expected to be released until next week.
Kristopher Fergerson and his friend Dennis Knox, 47, both of Lubec, were harvesting periwinkles, the small snails known locally as wrinkles, the night of Dec. 2 when Fergerson disappeared.
Department of Marine Patrol Officer Russell Wright said Thursday he was surprised by the medical examiner’s findings, but added he did not believe foul play was involved. He did not elaborate.
For several days after the incident, rumors were rampant in the town that Fergerson was the victim of foul play. Town Administrator Maureen Glidden said Thursday that she had heard the rumors, but hoped the medical examiner’s report would bring closure to the town.
“Hopefully, it does, especially for his family,” she said.
The tide was out the chilly December night when the two men arrived at Lower Water Street. They walked onto the flats near a popular harvesting spot in the area of the channel light known locally as the “spark plug.” The channel light runs parallel with South Lubec Road.
The two men were dressed for cold weather and wore headlamps. They had been out on the flats awhile, long enough to get a few sacks of wrinkles. They kept their eyes on the tide, and as it began to close in around them, they decided to leave.
In an interview with the Bangor Daily News published shortly after the accident, Knox said he had shouldered the bag of wrinkles he had picked and carried it to his car. Fergerson did not follow. Knox thought the man had stopped to gather more wrinkles. Knox said he yelled for his friend, and there was no response. The Lubec man got a flashlight out of his car and started to walk up the beach toward where he thought Fergerson might be. He yelled again. Fergerson yelled back, but with the wind and tide, Knox could not hear what he was saying.
Knox then went to the nearby U.S. Customs House at the foot of the Roosevelt-Campobello International Bridge to get help. He told customs officers his friend was trapped on a sandbar. They called the U.S. Coast Guard and the Department of Marine Patrol. The Washington County Sheriff’s Department also was called to the scene.
Knox then ran back to the beach. He said he could still hear Fergerson yelling, but soon the only sound was the wind and the tide. The Coast Guard arrived and shot off flares near the spark plug where Fergerson last was seen, but they saw nothing.
Law enforcement officials and area residents searched the water and beach areas that night and the next few days, but found nothing. Nine days later, a local man who was walking his dog on the beach found Fergerson’s body. He had washed ashore within sight of the spark plug. Fergerson’s aunt Mary Stuart, who used to live in Lubec, said at the time she was glad her nephew had been found.
“I feel a lot better. I feel more closure to it. At least we found something, thanks to him,” referring to the neighbor who had found Fergerson’s body. Stuart could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Fergerson’s mother, Donna Ferguson, said at the time that her son was a single dad who cared deeply for his son, Joedean, 5, who lived with his father. She also could not be reached for comment Thursday.
It has been a tough few months for this town of more than 1,300 people. On March 24, two men died after the vessel they were on, the All American, went down in waters off Lubec. U.S. Coast Guard officials, along with Marine Patrol and area fishermen, searched the waters and land near where the vessel was seen last. The body of Loren Lank, 53, of Lubec was found the same day. His fishing companion, Logan Preston, 19, of Roque Bluffs, has not been found. The two men were fishing for sea urchins.