Father, son drown in river

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RIPLEY — A Ripley man and his 7-year-old son drowned Sunday evening while wading fully clothed in the Main Stream during a birthday party, a spokesman for the Maine State Police said Monday.

Christopher Zoeller, 40, and his son, Bravin Zoeller, were attending a birthday party for Stephanie Zoeller, the victims’ wife and mother, respectively, with several family members when they waded into the stream fully clothed to cool off, McCausland said. Another member of the birthday party, who had also been in the water while carrying an infant, went to shore and when that person turned around, the two Zoellers were gone, McCausland said.

Rescue personnel donned wet suits to search for the Zoellers after they were reported missing late Sunday afternoon, McCausland said. It took rescue workers about 30 minutes to locate the bodies in 3 to 6 feet of water. The two were pronounced dead at the Mayo Regional Hospital in Dover-Foxcroft later Sunday night.

They appeared to have gone into water over their heads, McCausland said, although “there wasn’t a tremendous current” in the stream.

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McCausland said the cold water and the weight of the victims’ clothes contributed to their deaths.

“The water is still extremely cold this time of year,” McCausland said. “They got out too far and obviously the clothing weighed them down.”

State Police Sgt. Vicki Gardner told the Bangor Daily News a dozen people attended the birthday party, and of that group, five or six went into the water.

Autopsies at the state Medical Examiner’s Office in Farmington are scheduled for Tuesday, Gardner told the Bangor Daily News.

Police are no longer investigating the accident, McCausland said. “Just a terrible accident,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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