DURHAM — For nearly three weeks, dozens of wardens, Maine Marine Patrol officers and volunteers have scoured the Androscoggin River for 5-year-old Valerio McFarland.

Valerio McFarland

On Monday, it took Christopher Lane, an L.L.Bean kayaking instructor and father of six, less than an hour to find the boy.

Lane, 43, of Litchfield found Valerio’s body while kayaking the river in Durham, about five miles downstream from where the boy had fallen into the water. When Lane found Valerio, the boy’s body was half submerged and against a tree.

“I don’t feel like it was me,” Lane said. “He was meant to be found.”

The 20-day search for Valerio had involved numerous people in boats, in planes, as part of dive teams, on foot and with dogs. Lane said his L.L.Bean coworkers had put together a search team over the weekend, but he was not able to go. He had not realized until then that Valerio was still missing.

Lane went out on his own Monday. It was his first try searching for the boy.


Lane called 911 when he spotted Valerio’s body. Game wardens responded to the area to recover his body using a Warden Service air boat.

Valerio’s mother, Helena Gagliano-McFarland, said Monday she and her family are extremely grateful to the volunteers and wardens who have spent almost three weeks searching for her son.

Christopher Lane, pictured in this 2009 photo, found the body of 5-year-old Valerio McFarland Monday. Searchers have been scouring the Androscoggin River for Valerio since he fell in while playing on April 24. Lane is the father of six, including a 5-year-old boy. (Facebook photo)

“If it wasn’t for the volunteer effort, God only knows how long it would be — if ever — before he would have been found,” she said. “We are utterly thankful to everybody. We wish to thank everybody who participated in the search.”

On April 24, Valerio was playing with his brother, 10-year-old Maxim, at Bonney Park in Auburn, close to the home the family had moved into just a few days before. Their mother was in the house, their father outside with the boys, when Valerio fell into the nearby, rushing river. Maxim was the first to jump in to try to save him. Their 9-year-old sister and father, Jason McFarland, quickly followed.

Rescuers were able to pull Maxim from the water, but they could not find Valerio.

The family has repeatedly begged for the public’s help in finding his body. Early on, the family also pleaded with Gov. Paul LePage to call out the Maine National Guard or provide other help with the search.


The governor’s spokeswoman said last week that LePage had since spoken to Valerio’s mother “at length” and “listened to her concerns.” The spokeswoman did not respond to repeated questions about the governor’s decision not to call out the Maine National Guard or U.S. Coast Guard.

Valerio’s mother said Monday she was at the search site when she got the call that her son had been found. A volunteer’s cadaver dog had hit on that area over the weekend but searchers turned up nothing until Monday, when Lane found him.

“We’re happy that we found him, but with sorrow in our hearts that we no longer have our boy,” Gagliano-McFarland said. “At least we can give him a resting place.”

Cpl. John MacDonald, spokesman for the Maine Warden Service, wrote in a news release Monday that his department wanted to thank Auburn Police Department, first responders and the “countless volunteers who have searched tirelessly the last several weeks. We hope today’s recovery can begin to provide closure for the McFarland family.”

The boy’s family had organized a search effort, headquartered at City Cab Co. on Whipple Street in Lewiston. Scores of volunteers had signed up to join in the search, pairing up and receiving instructions.

Down East Emergency Medicine Institute in Bangor also joined the search with volunteer crews trained in spotting by binocular, flying a search plane and even a drone. Hundreds of digital, high-definition photographs of the river and its banks were taken and analyzed for signs of the boy.


The Warden Service had launched a diving effort, but was restricted by high-water flows that created hazards. A Warden Service boat equipped with sonar devices combed the river’s bottom for clues.

Although he was the one who found Valerio, Lane said he does not deserve credit.

“Personally, I don’t feel like it was me,” he said. “I think it was from all the prayers that were being said, and a few of my own.”

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Helena Gagliano-McFarland, right, looks across the Androscoggin River in Topsham with her friend Marie Saladino while a search party looking for Gagliano-McFarland’s young son, Valerio, who fell into the Androscoggin River last month. Valerio’s body has been recovered. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)


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