The search team still scouring the Penobscot River for a local man who disappeared into the frozen Kenduskeag Stream last month believe the man’s body is still between Bangor and Stockton Springs.
That means there’s still a chance of finding Peter Manuel, who was presumed drowned 48 days ago, said Richard Bowie, director of the Orono-based DEEMI Search and Rescue.
Based on what they’ve found during recent searches, DEEMI volunteers believe Manuel’s body hasn’t drifted more than 14 miles downriver from where the 22-year-old fell through the ice in downtown Bangor on March 2, Bowie said.
“We think he’s still above Fort Point,” said Bowie. Because of the river’s current, Manuel’s body is likely somewhere along the western bank of the river, he said.
The search for Manuel tragically became a recovery mission almost immediately, because authorities determined he most likely died when he became trapped below the ice on March 2.
After a fight was reported around 1 a.m. at a downtown bar that night, Manuel, who was on bail for allegedly violating a July criminal trespass order, allegedly ran away from police, jumped a fence, and went into the stream. He allegedly refused help from the police and firemen who tossed him ropes to help him climb out of the stream.
Manuel graduated from Bangor High School, where a former coach remembered him as a successful track and cross country runner. His premature death was “heartbreaking,” said a woman who cared for him during his teenage years when he was periodically homeless.
The day he drowned, searchers found a black sneaker believed to be Manuel’s sitting on a slab of ice just below the stream crossing between Bangor Savings Bank and the Charles Inn.
An extensive search has taken place on an near daily basis since, Bowie said.
By air, fixed-wing planes have taken thousands of polarized photographs of the river in the hopes of spotting the black pants or a white t-shirt with a green stripe Manuel was wearing the night he drowned, Bowie said. Meanwhile, drones have been checking mud flats and areas near the bank where planes can’t access, and the Maine Marine Patrol has periodically surveyed the river with their plane, he said.
By land, dog teams have sniffed for traces of Manuel, giving searchers an idea of how far the body has drifted downriver.
As the weather warms, the chances that a member of the public will find the body increases. More people are expected be out exploring the river and its banks, and warmer temperatures will melt the ice suspended in the river that may be blocking objects from flowing downstream, Bowie said.
“Please keep your eye out,” he implored the public.
Bowie hopes Manuel’s body will be found before it makes it beyond Fort Point, where the river flows into Penobscot Bay. From there, the water carries objects out to sea, which would seriously complicate if not doom the search, Bowie said.
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