Four people, two dogs rescued after boat gets stuck above Great Falls

Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Paul Duclos of Lewiston talks with Auburn firefighters on the shore of the Androscoggin River just above the railroad trestle over the Great Falls on Thursday night after the motor on his boat died and it drifted downriver before getting hung up on the grates of the dam. His wife, Arlene, holds their dog, Reese, as they await rescue.

AUBURN — It was supposed to be a nice, moonlit cruise. Instead, two men, two women and two dogs were plucked from the Androscoggin River when their boat motor died, leaving them hanging just above the raging falls between Lewiston and Auburn.

Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Four boaters await rescue just above the Great Falls on the Androscoggin River between Lewiston and Auburn on Thursday night.

Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Paul Duclos of Lewiston talks with Auburn firefighters standing on the trestle over the Androscoggin River above Great Falls on Thursday night after the motor on his boat died and it drifted downriver before getting hung up on the grates of the dam. Behind him is his friend, Ron Locke, also of Lewiston.

"The engine just cut out," said a tearful Arlene Duclos, who clutched her toy poodle, Reese, in the aftermath of the rescue. "We kept drifting closer and closer to the falls. I was so scared. I can't swim a lick."

The drama got under way at about 8 p.m. when witnesses reported a boat hanging on the edge of the falls, just below the train trestle.

"It was bad," said Jody Bolduc, who rushed to the Auburn side of the river after hearing about the incident on a police scanner. "There was panic. They were screaming and yelling over there."

Rescuers came from all over. Lewiston and Auburn firefighters were there. Auburn had a boat; so did the Androscoggin County Sheriff's Department. Police staffed both sides of the trestle and called the train company to make sure no trains went through.

A LifeFlight helicopter, making a return trip, hovered over the falls, shining a spotlight down on the stranded boat as darkness fell. Other rescue crews waited below the falls, in case the boat slipped over the edge.

For nearly an hour, the boat hung on the grates separating the upper part of the river from the lower part, beneath the falls. Rescuers sent life vests down to the disabled boat via a rope connecting the boat to the trestle.

"It would have been bad news if the boat went over," Bolduc said. "That river is just going full-bore."

Arlene Duclos' husband, Paul, owns the boat. They haven't used it in several years, she said, but the boat seemed sound. They fueled it up and went out onto the river around dusk.

"It was a mutually agreed-upon venture," said Ron Locke, who survived the ordeal with his wife and their black Pomeranian. "It was supposed to be a moonlit cruise."

Arlene Duclos was badly shaken — she doesn't swim and doesn't much like being near the water. Her husband, a Coast Guard veteran, was more irritated that things had come to such a dramatic conclusion.

"I knew we weren't going to go over," he said. "I told them to just be calm; we have to wait. I know how to survive things like this."

But for a time, all he could do was watch from his precarious perch as darkness fell and more rescuers arrived. More than a dozen were on the trestle, another four in an Auburn Rescue boat, and countless paramedics, firefighters and police officers were on land.

"Those guys did an absolutely great job," Bolduc said.

The Auburn Rescue boat was able to hook onto Duclos' smaller boat right away. The problem was the current, which rescuers feared was too strong. The Androscoggin County Sheriff's Department sent its rescue boat to the scene and for several minutes, they talked about strategy.

Ultimately, the Auburn boat pulled the Duclos craft free of the falls, hauling it a short distance to Higgins Sports Center on North River Road in Auburn. There, a small — but growing — crowd waited for the disabled boat to be towed in.

When it was, Arlene Duclos was the first off. She was trembling and clutching her poodle. Reese, on the other hand, looked perfectly calm.

"I wasn't going anywhere without her," Duclos said.

Next to her, Lorraine Locke clutched her Pomeranian, which looked completely unfazed. The dogs didn't so much as bark during the ordeal, Lorraine said.

While all of that was going on, police responded to a report of a man who was threatening to jump from the nearby Longley Bridge. That situation was wrapped up quickly and with much less drama than the other incident.

After all was said and done, nobody went into the river Thursday night.

mlaflamme@sunjournal.com

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Comments

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

"I'm telling you; that

"I'm telling you; that freakin' shark I saw was this long.!!!"

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

No life jackets; boat that

No life jackets; boat that hasn't been used for quite some time; only inspection of boat was putting gas in tank; non-swimmer(s) on board; midnight cruise.
Bake for 40 minutes in 300 degree oven and you get----DISASTER!!.

David  Cote's picture

CAPTION ENTRY # ONE...

Can youse help me? I dropped my Nokia!

GARY SAVARD's picture

Caption Entry #2 Holy crap!

Caption Entry #2

Holy crap! That fish must have been five feet long...darn near hauled us over the falls!

Catherine Pressey's picture

Like that old saying:

Up the creek without a paddle, without life vest, without ??? an anchor and without the good sense that the coast guard is supporsed to have. Make out coast seem less protected if this is how smart any, one of them is. My opinion cjp

Jeff Johnson's picture

Coast Guard Veteran?!?!

Rule #1: Always have a PFD. You may not need to wear it, but it's the law to have one for every person in the boat. This is the perfect example of why.
Rule #2: Always have an alternative means of propulsion. (Think: Paddle) If their engine "cut out" far enough above the falls, it's a pretty quick paddle to shore.
Rule #3: Communication. You mean to tell me none of these 4 had a cell phone?

How many man-hours were involved in this rescue? How many rescuers were put at risk? (no matter how slight)

They should be charged with not having PFDs and billed for the rescue.

Anyone want to bet whether or not the boat was registered?

GARY SAVARD's picture

Good points Jeff. I might

Good points Jeff. I might also add that Mr. CG should have dropped anchor when the motor died out, well before getting into that life threatening situation. (If their was an anchor on board).

David  Cote's picture

What a nautical nitwit...

If there was ever an opportune time for the S/J to start a "Caption the Picture" contest this would be it.

Penny Gray's picture

Nightmare scenario with a

Nightmare scenario with a happy ending. Great rescue!

Chris Blake's picture

He knew

He says he knew they weren't going over... great. Pretty sure being in the Coast Guard doesn't make him an expert in rivers. The pictures look like there's about 6inches holding that boat on. I've easily seen the flow of the river surge that much during it's heavy flow times, even on days when it didn't rain here in town.

If they hadn't used the boat in years, he should have tested the motor much more thoroughly before taking it out. On a lake or pond, losing it isn't a big deal. On the river, just above the falls, that's another story as we see here. He's very very lucky.

Keith Dutton's picture

Coast Guard

Actually Chris, he may have spent his CG career on inland waterways. I now live in the Midwest, and I'm always surprised at the amount of USCG there is on the Mississippi, Illinois, Ohio, and other rivers. I used to think they were only around the coast line of our country.

GARY SAVARD's picture

Great photos, as usual, Russ!

Great photos, as usual, Russ!

Betty Davies's picture

No life preservers?

Not such a good idea. I'd expect a Coast Guard veteran to make sure everyone was wearing a life vest before anyone could step onto the boat.

Bob Berry's picture

agreed

My first thought seeing that photo... where are the life jackets!

Dana Burgess's picture

Coast Guard Veteran

No life jackets on the boat. He must have forgotten his training. Game Wardens will be writing this guy up.

Roger  Cyr's picture

no life jackets

YA THINK...

Eric  LeBlanc's picture

LOL

LOL

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