Multiple agencies spent Friday searching for a Thomaston man who went missing during Thursday’s storm while he was harvesting clams near St. George. His skiff and clam harvesting gear were recovered near where he is believed to have gone missing.
By dusk Friday, he still had not been located.
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.
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.
Marine Patrol and the Coast Guard crews used boats to search the Long Cove area. The Coast Guard also flew a helicopter over the search area Friday morning and asked for another Coast Guard helicopter currently in Cape Cod, according to Chief Petty Officer Kevin Hampton.
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.
Authorities continued to treat Friday’s search as a rescue mission, according to Talbot. But he said “we’re on that shoulder of the time frame where if somebody went into the water” it could quickly become more of a recovery.
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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Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Paul Benner's age.