May 24, 2018
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Fishing incident leads to drowning

By Abigail Curtis, BDN Staff

ROCKLAND, Maine — A local man drowned Sunday afternoon off the Rockland Breakwater.

George Eugene Bonney, 22, of Rockland had been fishing off the breakwater at about 3:15 p.m. when he apparently lost the tip of his fishing pole and jumped into the harbor to retrieve it, authorities said.

“He swam out to it, and whether he got tired or whether it was the water temperature, it’s hard to say,” Curtis Barthel, commanding officer of Coast Guard Station Rockland, said Sunday evening. “I think this is the first drowning that I know of this year.”

The water temperature was about 60 degrees and “flat calm” inside the breakwater on Sunday, Barthel said. Tourists thronged the popular granite walkway in the sparkling Labor Day weekend sunshine.

Bonney had been fishing in the company of his brother, and his mother had arrived at the breakwater to pick him up just minutes after he went into the water, Barthel said.

At least one person watched Bonney go into the water, said Sgt. Marlowe Sonksen of the Maine Marine Patrol.

“It does appear to be an accident,” Sonksen said. “We’re still investigating.”

His agency responded to the emergency call from Knox County dispatch, along with the Rockland Police Department and its boat, the Rockland Fire Department and the U.S. Coast Guard. The Marine Patrol is the lead agency for the investigation.

Barthel said he thinks an onlooker made an emergency-911 telephone call.

“It was very tragic,” Barthel said. “There were quite a few people on the wall.”

It did not appear that anyone jumped in to rescue the young man, Barthel said.

Two Coast Guard vessels, a Falcon jet and the Rockland police helped search for Bonney. His body was found by Rockland diver Charlie Weidman just a few minutes after he started looking, Barthel said. Though Maine State Police and Maine Marine Patrol divers were contacted, Weidman was in the area.

“He found him very quick,” Barthel said.

A diver from the Maine State Police arrived just after Bonney’s body was recovered, Sonksen said.

The search was not complicated by the number of people on the breakwater, he said.

“We know what we’re doing, and they didn’t get in the way,” he said.

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