Tragedies occur. A Maine lobsterman falls overboard, a snowmobiler goes through the ice or a swimmer never emerges from the lake.
But what we have never seen at the location of any similar tragedy are federal employees sent by members of Congress to relay news to their own friends and family members.
Yet, that is apparently what happened Tuesday after a Maine State Police diver located the body of a Harvard Business School student between piers in Portland's Old Port.
Nathan Bihlmaier, whose family lives in Kansas, ended up in the water after a night of celebrating his upcoming graduation with friends.
Bihlmaier was a soon-to-be father and by all accounts an excellent, well-liked person. His death is a tragedy felt by all Mainers.
But what seems odd is that staff members representing U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, and U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, attended the dockside news conference in Portland.
And the explanation for that is, well, irritating.
Pingree was asked to have someone monitor the search by her stepdaughter, Carolyn Tisch Sussman, according to a story by the Portland Press Herald.
Sussman father, Pingree's husband, is the wealthy Democratic activist Donald Sussman.
"Snowe was asked to be a point of contact for information by former Sens. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and Judd Gregg, R-N.H., who have sons who were close friends of Bihlmaier and attended Harvard Business School," according to the Press Herald. "Harrison Frist is scheduled to graduate Thursday in Bihlmaier's class."
We can understand everyone's concern. But using federal employees to monitor the situation is inappropriate.
It is the kind of thing that gets a manager fired in the public sector, the same as assigning a company employee to run a personal errand for the boss or one of her friends.
The treatment is particularly bizarre considering the wall-to-wall TV and Web coverage devoted to the incident. Certainly the offspring of powerful people could have monitored the event themselves.
The entire episode is a bit reminiscent of the pointless helicopter ride Gov. John Baldacci took to Thunder Hole after a young New York City girl was swept into the water and drowned in 2009.
A release from Baldacaci's office in August 2009 said the governor would be traveling with the superintendent of the park to gain "a bird's-eye view" of the area.
At the time, we suggested the governor could have received the same briefing from the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Park Service by telephone, or by simply watching TV.
The flight did provide a pretty good opportunity for the governor's office to send some photos of him looking heroic and in charge, when he was clearly neither.
Perhaps the message for elected officials is to know the limits of their official responsibilities and stick with them.
We are sure rules are often bent in Washington and Augusta for friends, family and colleagues. But seeing it done in such an unabashed way is not reassuring to less well-connected citizens.
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.