ELLIOTTSVILLE PLANTATION, Maine — An educational technician who was chaperoning a field trip near the Appalachian Trail died Friday after stumbling down an embankment, SAD 53 Superintendent Michael Gallagher said Monday.
Jeanne G. Lynch, 66, of Fairfield died while being taken by LifeFlight helicopter to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, said Gallagher. The accident happened about 1:45 p.m. on the return hike from Little Wilson Falls near the town of Monson. The falls, which at about 90 feet tall are among the highest in Maine, are reached by a spur off the Appalachian Trail. The students and chaperones hiked in through an access trail off Elliottsville Road.
Lynch either slipped or tripped and hit her head on rocks, according to Gallagher and Monson Fire Chief Eric Melia.
Melia said she was unconscious when he arrived. Firefighters from Monson, Guilford and Sangerville carried her out of the woods on a litter.
“Everybody took turns,” said Melia. “It went pretty smoothly.”
Lynch was taken to a field at a nearby residence, where a LifeFlight helicopter had landed. Other than the three fire departments, responders included the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Department, a Mayo Regional Hospital ambulance, a Charles A. Dean Memorial Hospital ambulance and the Maine Forest Service.
Melia said he has responded to reports of numerous mishaps on the Little Wilson Falls trail as well as other trails in the area. Slippery conditions from recent rainfall may have contributed to Lynch’s fall, he said.
“We have a lot of minor injuries, but serious ones are pretty rare,” he said. “Usually we find a sprained ankle or knee.”
Lynch, who had been employed by the SAD 53 for 11 years, spent all of that time working with special education students. Director of Special Services Stacy Shorey said Lynch, who became an educational technician in her 50s after a previous career, was patient and capable.
Warsaw Middle School principal Sandy Nevens agreed.
“She worked with one of our most difficult kids,” said Nevens. “She was the only one that student could be with. She was gentle and kind.”
Gallagher said Lynch had a quiet way about her but obviously did the job because she loved to.
“She got a great deal of satisfaction from what she did,” he said. “She made a great connection with both teachers and students.”
There were approximately 75 sixth-graders on the field trip, but only a few of them witnessed the fall, said Gallagher.
The district contacted all of its teachers Saturday, many of whom gathered Monday at Warsaw Middle School to discuss their reaction to the tragedy. Gallagher said the district was in the process of contacting all of the sixth-graders’ parents Monday afternoon and that counselors would be available today for teachers and staff. There was no school Monday, Columbus Day.
Gallagher met Monday with Lynch’s husband, Tim, and one of their two grown sons. He said Tim Lynch was bearing the news as well as possible.
“He takes great solace in the fact that she was doing what she loved to do, caring for children and being in the outdoors,” said Gallagher. “Our deepest condolences go out to the Lynch family. It was a very tragic day for the district.”
Visiting hours for Lynch are scheduled for 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Lawry Brothers Funeral Home at 107 Main St. in Fairfield. A Mass of Christian burial is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Fairfield, according to a notice from the funeral home.