The tragic death of a 7-year-old New York City girl visiting Maine's Acadia National Park has saddened and troubled us all.
But what possible purpose did Gov. John Baldacci's helicopter fly-over of the area near the famous Thunder Hole on Wednesday serve?
Does the governor hope to assure tourists to Maine that this won't happen to them? Will he intervene or investigate the next time a tourist or even a regular Mainer dies at a popular attraction?
Baldacci, as the governor of the state, has little oversight or authority when it comes to the federal National Park System and, while many have speculated as to the cause of the tragedy, it is unlikely an action by this governor will avert any future such disaster or ease the pain of those involved.
The bill for Baladacci's foray over the seas will be footed by the taxpayers of Maine. And while this trip won't cost a fortune, it has been a difficult year for the state's budget.
A release from the governor's office stated he would be traveling with the superintendent of the park in order to gain "a bird's-eye view" of the area. We hope he enjoys the ride but would suggest rather than a highly publicized foray by air over the scene, the governor could have easily been briefed in his office by those involved.
The U.S. Coast Guard and the National Park Service were the largest players, from an official level, and it seems while the state must work in concert with these agencies, all reports show both did what would be expected of them and more under the circumstances.
We think a conference call or a meeting in the governor's office would likely have sufficed in the aftermath of this situation.
In many ways this flight reminds us of former President George W. Bush's Air Force One over-flight of the Louisiana and Mississippi coastline following Hurricane Katrina. The president became the butt of jokes for his similarly pointless political gesture.
The incident at Thunder Hole was the unfortunate convergence of a series of events. In this case weather and tides converged with some unfortunate judgment, and the result was the loss of a young girl's life. The general lesson for us bystanders, including the governor, is that the coast of Maine can be a wild and dangerous place. Those who spend their professional days monitoring these wilderness playgrounds gave fair warning that the area was unsafe. The loss of life in this case saddens us all, but so does any tragic incident involving the death of a child.
Last week, a young girl in Lewiston perished in a fire. The circumstances of that loss would likewise be described as tragic. The governor did not fly over the city to survey the fire scene to see what more could be done. He did not offer condolences to the family or thank those who responded to this or other tragedies.
While we see no real harm in the trip, we do question what the governor hopes to achieve by injecting himself in this highly publicized dramatic tragedy.