Old Town rescue boat sinks during training

Posted April 28, 2009, at 10:21 p.m.

OLD TOWN, Maine — Old Town Fire and Rescue and personnel from several other emergency response agencies spent part of Tuesday afternoon searching for an Old Town rescue boat after it capsized during a swift-water training exercise on the Penobscot River.

The boat overturned about 3 p.m., about half an hour into a joint training exercise involving fire and rescue personnel from Old Town and neighboring Orono, according to Old Town Deputy Fire Chief James Lavoie.

Basil Mahaney, a firefighter and paramedic, and Chris Liepold, a firefighter and emergency medical technician, were participating in the training when the rescue boat they were in encountered some large rapids near Indian Island, took on water and turned over.

Both men, who were outfitted with personal flotation gear, made it to safety after swimming about 100 yards to shore. Neither was injured, Lavoie said.

Old Town Police Chief Don O’Halloran said that when the boat capsized, its anchor got hung up on some debris on the river bottom, keeping the vessel submerged and making it hard to find.

Among those who helped locate the boat were firefighters and other public safety personnel from Old Town, Orono, Milford, the Penobscot Indian Nation, the Maine Warden Service and the Down East Emergency Medical Institute. DEEMI Director Richard Bowie said that the James W. Sewall Co. of Old Town provided a fixed-wing aircraft to assist in the search.

The boat was located about 45 minutes after it sank, O’Halloran said.

He said Tuesday’s warm and breezy conditions provided prime conditions for the training exercise because it was the kind of day that brings boaters out on the river.

Lavoie said the boat will be checked for damage.

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