June 18, 2018
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Lost student showed signs of hypothermia

By Dawn Gagnon, BDN Staff

ORONO, Maine — Although officials from the University of Maine have yet to complete their review of what led to a 19-year-old student getting lost Saturday, the director of a local search and rescue group that helped with the search said the young man exhibited some typical symptoms of hypothermia, including confusion.

Joshua Gilmore, 19, of Levant became the subject of a wide-scale search Saturday after he reportedly became disoriented during a fraternity initiation prank. Gilmore then wandered along the Stillwater River for more than eight hours before emerging about 2:25 p.m. from the woods onto the steam plant parking lot on College Avenue.

After a quick medical examination at the scene, Gilmore was treated at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor. An EMMC supervisor said Gilmore was released from the hospital about three hours after he was found.

Gilmore, who is the son of Renee and Gary Gilmore of Levant, could not be reached for comment Monday.

Richard Bowie, director of the Down East Emergency Medicine Institute, said Joshua Gilmore was exhibiting classic symptoms of hypothermia when he emerged from the woods near the steam plant parking lot, located between College Avenue and the Stillwater River.

According to Bowie, his twin brother, Dr. Robert Bowie, and Dr. Elmer Lommler, both of whom are members of DEEMI, examined Gilmore in the moments after he was found and determined that his body temperate had dropped to between 93 and 94 degrees, which would have put him in the mild to moderate stages of hypothermia.

Several medical sources list lack of muscle coordination and weakness, and mental confusion or sluggishness as among the effects of mild to moderate hypothermia. If the condition is not treated, it can lead to death.

Richard Bowie, who was involved in the search, said Gilmore appeared “dazed” after he was located.

Bowie said that Gilmore apparent became chilled after falling into the Stillwater, soaking his clothes and shoes. Footprints later matched to the dress shoes the student was wearing were found at the river’s edge, he said.

The Hermon High School graduate, who was pledging a campus fraternity, was reported missing to campus police at 8:10 a.m. Saturday, UMaine spokesman Joe Carr said over the weekend.

Members of Sigma Chi fraternity told police the junior financial economics major did not return from an apparent initiation prank that began about 6 a.m. behind Heritage House, formerly the Sigma Chi fraternity. The building now houses the Office of University Development.

Members of the fraternity spent about two hours searching for Gilmore on their own before calling campus police.

By noon, nearly 100 volunteers, including about 80 students, had turned out to help in the search effort, coordinated by the Maine Warden Service and University of Maine Police.

Professionals and equipment from the Orono Police Department, Old Town Police Department, Maine State Police, Penobscot County Sheriff’s Department, Orono Fire Department, Old Town Fire Department, Milford Fire Department, Indian Island Fire Department and the Maine Forest Service also took part, Carr said. Volunteers from DEEMI assisted the warden service in managing the search.

The effort included searchers on the ground and in boats and a helicopter. A Maine Warden Service dog also was brought in.

On Monday, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife spokeswoman Deborah Turcotte said the warden service’s review of the case would not be completed for another two weeks or so, but that it was unlikely the service would issue a bill to cover its costs.

“We rarely do that,” she said, adding that the few instances in which that did occur involved negligence, such as entering an area that is posted as unsafe.

“In this case, it sounds like everyone did the right thing,” she said.

Carr and Robert Dana, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, said Monday that a review of what led to Gilmore’s becoming lost is under way.

Dana said UM also will be looking into whether any university rules were violated and whether the fraternity’s actions played a role before deciding what, if any, action should be taken.

“Facts are being gathered and we’ll proceed deliberately but thoughtfully to ensure that nothing is overlooked,” he said.

Dana reported that Gilmore was back on campus and “doing well and wants to move forward.”

Dana noted that next week is the last week of classes before the finals season kicks off at UMaine.

“We want him focused on that,” Dana said. “Everything else will sort itself out. We’re lucky that this ended well, but it’s a heads-up for everyone on campus. We want to know why it went wrong and what led to this potential disaster so we can avoid [similar occurrences] in the future.”

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