UM employees rescue 2 teens on Mud Pond

Posted July 14, 2010, at 10:16 p.m.

OLD TOWN, Maine — Two teenagers were rescued from Mud Pond on Tuesday evening by two University of Maine School of Forest Resources employees who happened to be at the remote area of the pond.

After they were pulled from Mud Pond, which recently was renamed Perch Pond, Jean Gamperle, 19, and Tabitha Chambers, 18, were evaluated by emergency medical personnel, Deborah Turcotte, spokeswoman for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, said Wednesday in a news release. Neither teenager required hospitalization, she said.

Gamperle and Chambers left the boat landing on an inflatable raft, Turcotte said. Part way out, the two teenagers decided to float on the raft. They later told Game Warden Dave Georgia of the Maine Warden Service that they fell asleep.

The winds and waves picked up as they were floating, and the pair drifted across the pond, Turcotte said. The two said that they decided to take turns getting in the water to maneuver the raft back across the pond to the boat landing and became tired. The raft capsized and began to take on water, Turcotte said.

UMaine’s Al Kimball and Robin Avery were nearby in a motorized canoe when they spotted one of the teens clinging to the raft but could not immediately see the other.

In a telephone interview on Wednesday, Kimball said he and Avery were using a 20-foot Grand Laker canoe with a 2-horsepower motor to put up signs on the pond’s north shore on land recently acquired for public access through the Land for Maine’s Future program and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act.

Kimball said less than half an hour before the rescue, which occurred about 5:30 p.m., he and Avery had seen the pair heading across the 325-acre pond.

“When we saw them, we thought, ‘they’re not going to be able to get back,” said Kimball, a forestry professor and superintendent of 13,000 acres of forestland owned by the University of Maine and the University of Maine Foundation. Avery is operations manager for UM’s forest holdings and a Registered Maine Guide.

“The wind was really, really strong, and the couple got out farther and farther,” Kimball said. “I’ve been on Mud Pond a lot, and the waves were as high as I’ve ever seen them.”

When Kimball and Avery first spotted the teenagers, “we could see one pushing and the other paddling.” When they next saw the pair, they could only see one person clinging to the raft. Realizing the two were in trouble, Kimball and Avery headed over to them and pulled them out of the water.

“Over the years, if you’re out on the water long enough you’re bound to run into someone who’s in trouble,” Kimball said.

“It makes you think about how the whole day went and what led us to be at that spot at the right time,” he said, adding the matters “went from there not being any danger to ‘this is not good’ in 10 or 15 minutes.”

In the meantime, Tim Benson of Milford, who was on shore, called for help, Turcotte said. Among those who turned out were the Maine Warden Service and Orono and Old Town fire and rescue personnel.

Benson “made a really good call there,” Kimball said. Had those resources been needed to accomplish Tuesday’s rescues, time would have been of the essence, he said.

Tuesday was Avery’s birthday, his wife, Judy Avery, said Wednesday. Her husband was unavailable for comment because he spent the day guiding.

“When he got home, he said that being able to save someone’s life was the best birthday present he could have had,” she said.

Neither Gamperle nor Chamber was wearing a life jacket and none was in the raft, according to Georgia. Both were summoned for not having life jackets in the raft.

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