June 21, 2018
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Maine Marine Patrol takes to skies to search for Bangor jumper

By Nok-Noi Ricker, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — Maine Marine Patrol pilot Steve Ingram took off in a small sea plane Friday morning to search the Penobscot River by air for the person who jumped from the Joshua Chamberlain Bridge a week ago.

Police believe the person seen jumping from the bridge on Nov. 4 is Bangor resident William Hilderbrand, 22.

Ingram spent about three hours in the air but didn’t find anything, he said by cell phone around 11 a.m. as he prepared to land in Rockland.

“We covered everything pretty thoroughly, but there was no sign of anything,” he said, the noise of the plane’s engine in the background. “I pretty much started the search just below the Penobscot Narrows and worked my way up the river.

“I spent quite a bit of time in the Bangor area and spent time in Winterport,” Ingram said.

For Ingram, this is the second river search he has done this week. He flew in the Augusta area on Sunday, searching for a man who jumped from a bridge into the Kennebec River. He planned to search the Penobscot River on Monday, but windy weather postponed that flight, he said.

“It’s obviously something that was on the agenda, and it’s a good flying day,” Ingram said. “It’s really the first day I’ve been up flying this week. I realize there are people still out looking and it’s our job … it’s very important to provide closure for the family.”

In fact, the pilot saw people in boats and on the shoreline in Winterport who were family and friends of Hilderbrand.

“I just want to find my son and go home,” George Bassett of Pleasant Point, which is where Hildebrand grew up, said while searching the riverbanks in Winterport.

Police from Bangor and Brewer went to the Joshua Chamberlain Bridge just before midnight Nov. 4 after people driving by called to report a woman on the edge of the structure near the Bangor side of the overpass.

Brewer officers arrived first and saw a person jump into the water, and never resurface. An extensive search that day turned up nothing, Bangor police Sgt. Paul Edwards has said. A purse found on the bridge contained Hilderbrand’s identification and cell phone.

Hilderbrand, who has lived his life as a woman, is officially listed as missing, Edwards said.

No one has heard from Hilderbrand since Nov. 4 and “there is no new news to report,” Bangor police Detective Clifford Worcester, who is leading the investigation, said Friday.

“It’s hard to lose a loved one,” Ingram said. “And the only thing worse than losing a loved one is losing a loved one and not being able to find them.”

Ingram searched the river in a Cessna 185 amphibious plane and flew low, along the water’s surface, and higher up.

“I get down low to do the shoreline and fly high to look down into the water,” he said. “It was low tide so a lot of the shoreline was exposed.”

Since he didn’t have any success, “we’ll give it a few days and go back and do it again and, hopefully, will be able to give the family closure.”

In addition to the Marine Patrol and Hilderbrand’s family members, volunteer search and rescue personnel from Down East Emergency Medical Institute also are searching for the body, said Richard Bowie, DEEMI director.

A DEEMI plane was used to search the river Thursday, and late in the day did locate an object of interest in Winterport, he said.

Volunteer crews, who are using Mid-Coast Marine in Winterport as a base, began to search at dawn Friday, but so far, they “haven’t been able to locate the object we saw earlier,” Bowie said just before noon Friday.

Their search plane took off just before noon Friday for the first of two searches done during the day.

“We concluded from the information we have that the object of interest has moved south,” Bowie said. He said DEEMI searched from Winterport to Penobscot Narrows Bridge on Friday, but found nothing.

DEEMI plans to pick up the search at the bridge and move toward Fort Point on Saturday. A Winterport volunteer firefighter plans to search from a boat on the water Saturday and provide transportation to DEEMI volunteers.

“If [Hilderbrand] gets past the point and goes out to sea, then he’s gone,” Bowie said. “It’s sad when that happens.”

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