WATERFORD — It took two paddleboats, a party barge and more than a dozen officers and civilians to finally take down one man early Sunday morning following a 19-mile car chase, foot pursuit and water battle on Lake Keoka in Oxford County.
"It was a 19-mile pursuit through heavily wooded, moose-infested forest in a large SUV," Deputy Michael Parshall of the Oxford County Sheriff's Office said. "It was a terrifying and very dangerous incident due to alcohol."
Authorities arrested Christopher Beaulieu, of 12 Osgood St., Bethel, at 12:29 a.m. Sunday. Parshall said the 35-year-old's trouble with authorities started more than two hours earlier in downtown Bethel when he went to two bars, but was refused entry because he was too intoxicated.
Beaulieu remained in the Oxford County Jail Sunday night on charges of eluding an officer, aggravated operation after habitual offender revocation, driving to endanger, operating under the influence with three priors and refusing to submit to arrest or detention and probation violation. His bail his set at $1,500.
According to Parshall, the incident, which ended in Waterford, started more than 20 miles away in Bethel.
Parshall said that he was called to the Funky Red Barn on Summer Street in Bethel about 10:20 p.m. Saturday to investigate a disturbance involving a subject who was judged by staff to be too intoxicated to enter the bar.
Upon arriving there and starting his investigation, he received a second call from Sud's on Main Street, just around the corner from the first bar, about a subject driving the same vehicle who was making a scene at the door because he was denied entry.
Parshall said that he pulled in behind the suspected vehicle, a GMC Denali, while it was parked in front of The Laundrymat on Railroad Street. As he called in the plate and prepared to go up to the SUV, Parshall said the driver, who turned out to be Beaulieu, quickly backed up and attempted to hit his cruiser before taking off toward Route 2 west.
Parshall said that Beaulieu was driving at high rates of speed — sometimes approaching 100 mph — on curvy back roads and in the left lane — into oncoming traffic.
Beaulieu led Parshall and other officers from the Oxford Sheriff's Office and Maine State Police through 19 miles of roads with sharp turns. The suspect went from Route 2 to Route 5 to Route 35, often driving in the wrong lane or at high rates of speed and just missing other cars on the road.
Authorities finally used a spike mat to slow the vehicle on Route 35 near Waterford Elementary School. Beaulieu continued driving, and Parshall said he slowed to avoid running over the mat.
Parshall and other authorities found Beaulieu's smoking SUV parked on the wrong side of Route 35 several miles from where it ran over the spike mat and blew both front tires. Beaulieu, however, was no where to be seen.
The suspect was later tracked by a police dog into the waters of Lake Keoka, where he spent the next hour-plus swimming around while officers and civilians alike tried to bring him in.
Parshall said that people who own camps in the area between Kokosing Campground and Keoka Campground were really helpful in Beaulieu's arrest. Keoka Campground even let officers borrow their pontoon boat to go and assist in the effort with the two paddleboats already in the water.
"I just really want to thank the Maine State Police and the citizens who allowed us to use their boats," Parshall said, adding that the Waterford Fire Department also assisted. "This wouldn't have been a good outcome without the assistance from the public."