June 23, 2018
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Pittsfield police officer pulls man out of car submerged in river

By Alex Barber, BDN Staff

PITTSFIELD, Maine — A police officer rescued a Burnham man from a crash that left him submerged in his car in the Sebasticook River on Tuesday.

Melvin Getchell, 65, was traveling eastbound on Hunnewell Avenue when he fell asleep at the wheel of his 1998 Buick LeSabre, police said. His car went off the road and down a steep embankment into the river. His vehicle wound up on its roof.

Lawrence Morton, owner of A.J. Fabrication, heard the crash from his building across the street.

“I saw nothing, so I hunted for him,” said Morton, as K&K Towing of Palmyra was loading the totaled Buick onto a flatbed. “I knew there was something. I walked that bank twice before I spotted him. I hollered and I couldn’t get a response out of him.”

Morton called 911. Pittsfield police Officer Jeff Vanadestine responded to the call, which came in at 12:41 p.m.

“I was here probably a minute after the call,” said Vanadestine, who was soaked up to his waist. “I was able to bust the back window out with a baton. At that point, I saw him bobbing up. He was fully submerged in the driver’s seat.”

Vanadestine said he was able to pull Getchell out through the passenger side rear window and bring him to safety.

“He was very, very lucky. He was able to walk away,” said Vanadestine.

Getchell was transported to Sebasticook Valley Hospital in Pittsfield “with minor cuts and abrasions on his face,” said Vanadestine. “He was talking. Nothing’s going to be severe or life threatening.”

The Pittsfield Fire Department and Maine State Police assisted.

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