Mother of teen who drowned in Sebec River raises funds for emergency response phone tower

Posted July 12, 2013, at 8:34 p.m.

SEBEC, Maine — The day after Dacano Arno drowned last month, Jody Arno saw people jumping off the Sebec River Bridge into the water just as her son had done the evening he died.

She knew she had to do something to help prevent other parents from experiencing the pain she was feeling.

Dacano, 17, drowned in the rapid current near the dam downstream from the bridge on June 3. The Dover-Foxcroft teen is credited with pushing another teen to safety before being dragged under the water.

Others there that evening tried in vain to contact police on their cellphones to get help. But there is little to no cell service in that area.

Jody Arno believes an emergency response hard-line phone tower will help shorten response times for future emergencies. So she has led the effort to have a tower similar to those found on college campuses installed near the bridge.

“With having no cell service in this area, it becomes very difficult to get emergency services here,” Arno said on Friday, more than five weeks after her son’s death. “It’s optimal to have a hard-line service.”

The Dover-Foxcroft Kiwanis Club, friends and family have helped raise more than $9,000, she said. That money will be used to purchase a tower that will enable people to call the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Department with the push of a button. The tower also will have a flashing light, siren and video camera. The person calling in the emergency will be able to talk with a dispatcher.

It will be painted blue, which was Dacano’s favorite color, she said. A face plate will carry Dacano’s name.

Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Bob Young said the tower is a good idea.

“If you can do something to get a faster response, it will be helpful,” he said.

The area below the dam where Dacano and his friends were swimming is posted as off limits. High water flowing over the dam and through the turbine overflow can create powerful currents.

Dacano was described as a strong swimmer, but Dover-Foxcroft Fire Chief Gerald Guyotte said last month he didn’t believe anyone could have survived in that current.

Jody Arno said the 9-foot-tall pole is necessary because it is apparent kids will continue to jump off the bridge and swim in the river.

“If they put up a 10-foot fence, they’re going to bring an 11-foot ladder,” she said. “They’re going to jump it. That’s typical of kids.”

“I think it’s a wonderful idea,” said Jess Mallar of Dover-Foxcroft, who stopped by the bridge to greet Arno on Friday. “Having a hard line to emergency services could potentially save a lot of lives. I’m devastated that it took a tragedy like this to make it happen.”

Mallar agreed that little can be done to prevent kids from jumping from the bridge and swimming near the dam.

“It’s a rite of passage. I’ve watched a lot of people do it over the years,” she said.

Arno said Dacano would have wanted the tower as well.

“I think this is something he would feel very strongly about,” she said. “His brother, Darango, is in the same thought process — to actually take this money and do something that could help another family so they don’t have to go through this.”

Arno said the past few weeks have been difficult for her and her family, but especially for Dacano’s twin brother, Darango.

Darango also was swimming in the river the day his brother drowned. He reached for Dacano and grabbed his hand before Dacano slipped away.

“They were mirror twins. They were the exact opposite,” said their mother, mentioning that Dacano was left-handed while Darango is right-handed. “It wasn’t until they were 12 years old I could get them to sleep apart.”

She said Darango has been unable to revisit the spot where his brother drowned.

The loss of Dacano was felt by the whole region. Hundreds attended his remembrance ceremony last month. Jody Arno said she received enough sympathy cards to fill two grocery bags.

“It’s a small community that’s very close,” she said.

Arno said she would like to see the tower installed as soon as possible to prevent another tragedy.

Dacano’s drowning remains under investigation, Cpl. John MacDonald of the Maine Warden Service said in an email on Thursday.