Tuesday, March 11, 2014
AUGUSTA — Three people, including two teenagers, were rescued Monday from the Kennebec River after a late-night test run on a newly purchased personal watercraft went awry.
Marine Patrol Officer Matt Sinclair said nobody was injured during the after-hours cruise, during which nobody wore a flotation device.
Sinclair said it was just luck that the incident did not end tragically.
The events began to unfold around 9 p.m. Monday when a 16-year-old Cushing boy decided to take his personal watercraft for a test ride on the river. Augusta police Lt. Christopher Massey said the teen had bought the craft from a city resident earlier in the evening.
Sinclair said the teen found the craft to be unstable, so he returned to the dock at the East Side Boat Landing, where he asked his cousin, 35-year-old Jason Young, of Cushing, to take it for a ride.
Young got to the middle of the river, where the craft capsized, throwing Young into the water. He was carried away by the current as the watercraft continued to buzz about the river with a stuck throttle, Sinclair said. Young was not using the engine kill cord typically attached to the rider, Sinclair said.
The teenage boy, seeing his cousin in trouble, swam out to try to retrieve the watercraft. When the current carried him downriver, the teen's girlfriend swam out and tried to help her boyfriend. The boy and his girlfriend continued downriver until landing on a sandbar that is exposed only at low tide.
"They're very, very lucky," Sinclair said. "The tide happened to be in their favor."
Augusta firefighters launched their dive rescue boat around 9:15 p.m. after receiving a report of two people in the river screaming for help, Fire Chief Roger Audette said. Firefighters used the boat to rescue all three people — two on the sandbar and one swimming — and tow the disabled personal watercraft back to the East Side Boat Landing.
Young was charged with operating a personal watercraft without a personal flotation device, Sinclair said. Young was given written warnings for operating a personal watercraft after sunset and operating an unregistered personal watercraft.
Sinclair said both Young and his 16-year-old cousin are commercial fishermen. Their familiarity with the water may have made them overly confident, the officer said.
"One bad decision can lead to major consequences," Sinclair said.
Craig Crosby — 621-5642