RUMFORD – A Rumford Point man was plucked from the Androscoggin River and airlifted to a Lewiston hospital on Saturday night.

Michael Thurston, 21, spent about an hour mostly submerged after the snowmobile he was riding ran into open water at the confluence of the Concord River, officials said.

Thurston, of 91 Route 232, was taken to Central Maine Medical Center. The hospital declined to release information about his condition early Sunday.

His ordeal began shortly after he and friend Benjamin Hodgkins, 19, of Roxbury, left Thurston’s home on snowmobiles around 7 p.m., Maine Warden Josh Smith said. The young men were headed for Mexico snowmobile trails when one or both decided to use the Androscoggin River rather than land-based trails.

“They figured the river would be faster,” Smith said at Rumford Hospital, where he’d interviewed Hodgkins, who was cold but not injured.

Smith said Thurston, who was riding a Yamaha SXR sled, got ahead of Thurston, who was riding an Arctic Cat Snowpro.

“They were within sight of each other when Ben saw (Michael’s) sled go into open water. Ben looked for his friend, but didn’t see him anywhere and raced back to the Thurston house to call 911,” Smith said.

Hodgkins and Thurston’s father rode back to the accident scene to look for the Michael Thurston.

Rumford firefighters, game wardens, police, state troopers, Oxford County Sheriff’s deputies, snowmobilers, neighbors and bystanders all went to the scene to help, working both sides of the river from Route 2.

They caught a break when a firefighter heard Michael Thurston yelling, “Help me! Help me!” Rescuers, including Thurston’s father, were directed to the submerged man, who had propped his elbows on an ice floe to keep his head and chest above water, Warden Sgt. Rick Mills said.

“They shimmed him onto the ice and used a rope to get him out,” Smith said.

Michael Thurston was pulled from the water at about 8:05 p.m., Smith said.

Firefighter Mark Tripp said he believed the depth of the river where the accident occurred runs from very shallow to 8 to 10 feet.

“He held on for probably longer than I would have,” Smith said. “It’s a treacherous river and there is a lot of current there. It can get a little bit of shell ice there, but it won’t be safe. It’s not a good idea to run up and down it, especially at night. It’s a bad idea at night, because you never know what you might run into.”

Smith and Bryant were quick to credit the huge outpouring of searchers.

“I can’t say enough about everyone who responded to help,” Smith said.

Bryant agreed. “A lot of bystanders helped out and showed up with snowmobiles. It worked out great,” he added.

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