BANGOR, Maine — Volunteer search and rescue personnel, who are assisting police, are using an unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone, to hunt for a missing local man who was last seen a week ago.
Paul Francis III, 29, who goes by the nickname “June Bug,” worked the evening shift as a cook at Geaghan’s Pub and was last seen leaving a party on Sanford Street sometime after 1 a.m. on Dec. 2, Bangor Police Department officials have said.
Francis was reported missing on Sunday, Dec. 4. Family and friends started their own search in Bangor on Monday and the hunt for the missing man expanded from there, according to drone pilot Vinal Applebee, a member of Down East Emergency Medicine Institute, an Orono-based search and rescue organization that got FAA approval last year to operate two drones.
“We’re one of many agencies out looking for this young man,” Applebee said, as he used an iPad and yellow controller to maneuver the camera-carrying drone over the Bangor waterfront on Friday.
The drone was used in Old Town earlier in the week because law enforcement investigators were able to use geolocation technology to ping the cellphone of Francis, who is a member of the Penobscot Indian Nation. The ping indicated it was in the Old Town area. That information was relayed to DEEMI, according to Richard Bowie, the organization’s director of operations.
“We were on the opposite side of Gilman Falls [in Old Town] on Tuesday,” Applebee said.
Members of the Penobscot Indian Nation have been searching the area all week and used a boat to search the river’s edge in Bangor on Friday.
“The only hazards he faced heading home [on Center Street] were the [Penobscot] river and the Kenduskeag Stream,” Bowie said, explaining why searchers are looking at waterways.
Volunteers also have created a Facebook page, titled Search for June Bug, to keep people apprised of their activities.
Applebee said he and the drone, which he calls Big Bird, would return to Old Town on Sunday to search by the transfer station and out behind LaBree’s Bakery on Gilman Falls Avenue.
The plan on Friday was to fly the multirotor device along the water’s edge in Bangor between the Joshua Chamberlain Bridge and the Veterans Memorial Bridge, also known as Interstate 395, but gusting winds shut that effort down.
“It automatically takes high resolution photos that are uploaded to analysts in Ohio and Florida,” Applebee said of the drone. “They look for items of interest. If an abnormality is found, [local people] can instantly go in and search for them on foot.”
Established in 1991, DEEMI typically deploys its vehicles, aircraft and volunteers for about 25 search and rescue operations per year. The nonprofit organization has about 120 volunteers.
Bangor police have two detectives working the missing person case, and patrol officers are keeping an eye out for him.
“Detectives [Gary] Decker and [Jeremy] Brock are still working on the Paul Francis III missing person report,” Bangor police Detective Lt. David Bushey said in an email Friday. “Unfortunately we do not have any updates to offer regarding his location. We have maintained contact with family members and other law enforcement agencies in hopes of locating Mr. Francis.”
The Maine Warden Service has provided assistance, Bushey said.
“We are assisting at this point with game wardens and K9s,” Cpl. John MacDonald said in a Friday email, adding that Maine State Police also are assisting.
Applebee said he hopes Francis is found before Sunday, but if not, he’ll be out with Big Bird to search for him.
“We’re using all the technology we have and all the resources available to find him,” the drone pilot said.
BDN writer Dawn Gagnon contributed to this report.