After more than 20 hours of scouring the waters and shore near St. George, the search for a missing Maine clammer was suspended Friday afternoon. Search efforts will resume at low tide on Saturday, around 8 a.m..
Paul Benner, 33, was last seen between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. Thursday when he went clamming off Long Cove Road in the village of Tenants Harbor. Benner’s father reported him overdue at about 11 p.m., prompting the multi-agency search, according to Maine Marine Patrol Sgt. Matt Talbot.
Searchers from the Marine Patrol, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, along with multiple local fire departments and private citizens, began combing the water and shore for Benner late Thursday night.
The search will continue in and around the Long Cove area in the coming days as weather permits, according to Department of Marine Resources Spokesman Jeff Nichols.
Benner’s skiff was recovered Thursday night, according to a release from the Department of Marine Resources. Searchers on Friday morning found an anchor belonging to Benner’s skiff and clam harvesting gear believed to be his in the middle of Long Cove ― which is exposed at low tide.
The Coast Guard used three boats and two helicopters in the search, according to Chief Petty Officer Kevin Hampton.
The Marine Patrol and local boat owners also joined the search Friday, Hampton said.
Long Cove is a somewhat protected area, but currents can create hazards, Talbot said. At the time Benner went missing, the water temperature in the area was about 39 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Hampton, with wind chill advisories in effect.
“With a small vessel in five-foot seas, even where Long Cove is you’re somewhat sheltered from the westerly winds, but there is still exposure risk,” Hampton said.
Knox County Sheriff’s Office deputies and members of local fire departments handled the onshore search and went door to door in the area, according to Hampton.
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