BATH, Maine — The Maine State Police dive team, Maine Marine Patrol and the U.S. Coast Guard continued to search Friday afternoon for a 35-year-old Wisconsin man who police say fell into the Kennebec River in downtown Bath late Thursday night.
Bath police identified the man as David Henry Dieterich of Racine, Wisconsin. Dieterich was in Bath on a work assignment with his company, Marshall Erecting, which subcontracts for Bath Iron Works.
Dieterich had reportedly visited several bars in Bath with two colleagues when they walked past a rope barrier and onto a private dock near the Kennebec Tavern, not among the establishments they had visited, police said.
“Mr. Dieterich decided to walk onto the dock, which was only a foot or so from the shore,” Bath police Deputy Chief Robert Savary said Friday. “The high tide had caused the dock to rise, so it was easily accessible to step on from the shoreline … the witnesses say that it was a surprise when Dieterich had fallen in the water. There was no prior discussion or any indications he was going to jump. They have told investigators that they think Mr. Dieterich had accidentally fallen into the river. The dock was very unstable.”
Dieterich fell into the swollen river just before 10 p.m., according to Savary, who said police have no reason to suspect foul play and believe that the incident was accidental.
Dieterich and his two co-workers were staying at the Hampton Inn and had wandered across the street and onto the dock.
“We do believe alcohol was a factor,” Bath Police Chief Michael Field said Friday afternoon.
The Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office and BIW security, along with a boat from the Woolwich Fire Department, assisted police with the initial search until it was suspended at 2 a.m.
The Maine State Police Underwater Recovery Team arrived at about 6 a.m. Friday and spent several hours in what Sgt. Andrew Booth of the Bath Police Department described as an extremely murky river.
Brunswick police sent a drone into the air to search the river banks north of the dock Friday morning. Early Friday afternoon, as the tide began to change and currents slowed, the Maine Marine Patrol used side-scan SONAR and the Maine Warden Service used remotely operated underwater vehicle to continue the search, Maine Marine Patrol Sgt. Rob Beal said.
The stretch of the Kennebec River that runs through Bath is known for a strong current, and with water temperatures in the 40s, Savary said the search is now a recovery mission.
Field said he hoped searchers would recover the man’s body, but acknowledged that in the past, that has taken months.
“Sometimes the river won’t give them up,” he said.