OLD TOWN, Maine — A Brewer woman who went kayaking on Pushaw Stream with her sister Wednesday capsized just before noon and got swept away by fast-moving water that pinned her against a submerged tree branch, a game warden said.
Melissa “Missie” McLaughlin, 43, “was submerged from her belly down,” Lt. Dan Scott of the Maine Warden Service said shortly after she was freed from the water.
McLaughlin capsized shortly after the sisters left the boat launch on West Old Town Road, also known as Route 43, which is near the Alton town line. Her sister, Shelley Fahey of Bangor, called for help at about 11:20 a.m.
“She was caught in what we call a strainer — it’s basically a tree that is down in the river and the current forces you up against it and you’re basically pinned there,” Scott said of McLaughlin. “It’s a very serious situation, especially given the recent rain.”
“When we got on scene, she was still trapped there,” he added later. “She did have a life jacket on and that probably saved her life.”
Her sister was nearby ensuring McLaughlin’s head did not go below the waterline, Scott said.
Scott and Game Warden Dave Georgia went out in a boat operated by Old Town Fire Department personnel and secured a safety line around McLaughlin, then used a portable saw to cut her free and pull her to safety, the lieutenant said.
“I’m sure it was very scary for her,” Scott said of McLaughlin. “She was there for probably 20-25 minutes or so.”
McLaughlin, who was cold from her water exposure, was taken by ambulance to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.
“The immediate concern was, obviously, her drowning and the secondary concern was … hypothermia,” Scott said. “The water is still cold.”
Old Town emergency responders and the wardens were assisted by rescue and ambulance crews from Orono Fire Department and local police, he said.
The recent bout of wet weather in Maine has flooded the state’s waterways, Scott said He warned those heading out to use those waterways.
“After all this rain, they are very high and very dangerous,” the game warden said.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly said that Melissa “Missie” McLaughlin is from Bangor. She is from Brewer.