March 17, 2018
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Body found Monday identified as missing Maine clammer

By Lauren Abbate, BDN Staff

Crews searching for a clammer missing since last week discovered his body in the Long Cove area of Tenants Harbor shortly before noon Monday.

The Maine Marine Patrol, aided initially by the Coast Guard and local boaters, launched an extensive search in Long Cove last week for Paul Benner, 33, of Thomaston who went missing late Thursday when he reportedly went clamming in the cove during a blizzard.

A Maine Marine Patrol officer said searchers found a body Monday in the waters of Long Cove, and members of the Maine State Police dive team recovered the body.

The Maine medical examiner’s office positively identified the body as Benner later Monday afternoon.

“We’re hopeful that this will provide some closure for the family,” Marine Patrol Sgt. Robert Beal said at the scene Monday.

Benner’s sister, Samantha Benner, said in a Facebook message Monday that she wouldn’t wish what her family has experienced on her worst enemy. She said her brother had always been a hardworking and caring man.

“He will forever be in my heart, I just wish I had been there to save him,” she said. “For someone with such a heart of gold it was a very very cruel way to go.”

Samantha Benner said her brother worked non-stop between lobstering, scalloping, clamming and other jobs. She said she didn’t know if he typically went clamming near where he went missing, but she has been told it wasn’t his usual spot.

The recent sub-zero temperatures made the search for Benner challenging, with temperatures freezing the surface of Long Cove on Saturday and limiting searchers’ ability to use a sonar device to scan underneath the water.

On Sunday night, a group of commercial fishermen broke up the ice in the cove, Beal said. The breaking of the ice, along with Monday’s warmer temperatures, allowed Marine Patrol crews to use their side-scan sonar equipment to locate Benner’s body in the water on Monday morning.

The search for Benner began late Thursday night, after his father reported him overdue around 11 p.m.. Following Thursday’s blizzard which brought high winds and extreme tides, the U.S. Coast Guard, Maine Marine Patrol, Knox County Sheriff’s Office and local fire departments joined in on the initial search ― which went on for about 20 hours after Benner was reported missing.

Searchers found Benner’s skiff across the cove near the Clark Island causeway Thursday night. An anchor and clam harvesting gear believed to be Benner’s were found in the middle of Long Cove at low tide on Friday.

Crews used boats, air surveillance and door-to-door canvassing during the four-day search for Benner.

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