Lewiston-Auburn Sun Journal| Tuesday, June 30, 2015
MECHANIC FALLS — Rescue crews pulled a teenager and a 12-year-old boy from the Little Androscoggin River late Tuesday after the pair got stranded on a rock for more than an hour. Rescuers from Mechanic Falls, Poland and the Maine Warden Service pulled 12-year-old Bryant Morgan and 18-year-old Will Verbeke from the river at about 5:40 p.m. The duo, who had been tubing on the rapids, spent just over two hours perched on a flat rock with the river raging around them. Morgan was wearing a life preserver during the ordeal. Rescuers were later able to rope out a second flotation device for Verbeke.
Morgan is the son of Greg Morgan, Mechanic Falls' newest pastor, who watched the rescue from shore. Verbeke is an intern at the Pleasant Street Baptist Church. The elder Morgan called Tuesday's ordeal a "teachable moment." "All of this is sermon material for a later date," he said. Rescuers responded to the call for help around 3:30 p.m., setting up ropes, pulleys and other equipment to reach the two youths, who could be seen from Dragonfly Lane. Firefighters, EMTs and police from Mechanic Falls were at the scene quickly and called for help from Poland, Auburn and the Warden Service. Auburn brought water rescue gear to the scene, including a boat that was later tethered to shore.
Game wardens used a drone to survey the area and to deliver a line to the stranded boys before rescuers entered the water. Just before 5:30 p.m., Auburn firefighters had their boat in the water and were preparing to attempt a rescue. Several minutes later, rescuers pulled Morgan out and went back for Verbeke, who was pulled to shore at 5:40 p.m. When the younger boy emerged from the water, he told rescuers, “I’m cold.” He then hugged his father and was wrapped in a blanket before being led to a nearby ambulance. Oxford Rescue personnel evaluated the boys, who were transported to the hospital for evaluation.
According to dispatcher reports, the two suffered scrapes, but apparently were otherwise unharmed. As he watched the rescue, the Rev. Morgan was mostly calm. His son and intern know the river pretty well, in spite of the poor choice they made in trying to tube in that particular spot."They've done it before, but the water wasn't this high," Morgan said. "My guess is that the water got moving too fast for them and they grabbed on to that rock." Local boaters and fishermen agreed that the river was particularly high and rough Tuesday due to recent rains. Ralph Hatt came to the area from Westbrook to canoe the Little Androscoggin. However, he said he stopped short of the area where the boys became stranded — the water was much too rough to boat there. "I wouldn't go out there in that," Hatt said. "The river is probably up a foot, foot and a half since we got all that rain."
While they waited on the rock, the number of searchers growing by the minute around them, Verbeke and the young Morgan mostly looked bored and perhaps a little embarrassed as the rescue operation grew more and more elaborate. "He should be embarrassed," the Rev. Morgan said of Verbeke. "He was told to stay away from this part of the river." Ultimately, though, Morgan said he wasn't mad at his young intern. "We've all done stupid stuff," the pastor said. "But he's never going to hear the end of it." When Verbeke finally came up to dry land, shivering and dirty, Morgan didn't give his intern too much grief, however. He just hugged him, shook his head and led him to the waiting ambulance.