March 20, 2018
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Medical examiner: Father and son died of accidental drowning

By Christopher Cousins, BDN Staff

AUGUSTA, Maine — The state medical examiner’s office has completed autopsies on a father and son whose bodies were recovered from Main Stream in Ripley on Sunday. 

Christopher Zoeller, 42, and his 7-year-old son, Bravin, both died of accidental drowning, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner’s office said Wednesday afternoon. Further testing, including a toxicology screening on Christopher Zoeller, will take a few more weeks, according to the spokeswoman.

The Zoellers drowned during a birthday party on Chandler Hill Road for Stefanie Zoeller, who is Christopher Zoeller’s wife and Bravin’s mother. Seeking relief from the heat, Christopher and Bravin Zoeller and others waded into the stream, which flows into the Sebasticook River, fully clothed.

A frantic search for the Zoellers started as soon as guests at the party realized they were missing. It took rescue workers approximately 30 minutes to find the Zoellers’ bodies in 3-6 feet of murky, slow-moving water. State police have said they believe the low temperature of the river water and the weight of the victims’ clothing contributed to their deaths.

Main Stream is about 20 yards across in most areas and flows through a swampy area near the intersection of Dexter and Chandler Hill Roads. The Zoeller home is located not far from a bridge at the Cambridge and Ripley town line.

According to their obituaries, published Wednesday in the Bangor Daily News, Christopher Zoeller was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. and Bravin was born in Dover-Foxcroft. Few details were known about the Zoellers, though a post at an online guest book hosted by the Crosby & Neal funeral home described Christopher Zoeller as “very comical and fun to be around.”

The obituary suggested that well-wishers send donations in the Zoellers’ memories to the YMCA Swim Program, Care of Piscataquis Regional YMCA, 48 Park St., Dover-Foxcroft, 04426.

Correction: An early version of this story gave the incorrect age for Christopher Zoeller. He was 42.

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