WATERVILLE — Firefighters used a ladder truck Tuesday afternoon to rescue a woman from atop a 25-foot-high granite abutment in the Kennebec River after she climbed up but was too scared to climb down.
Mary Temple, 44, of Waldoboro, was sunbathing with friends on the abutment — a freestanding remnant of the former Wyandotte Mill — about a quarter-mile north of the Two-Cent Bridge at Head of Falls. She panicked at the prospect of getting back down. Her friend, Joe Bradley, 34, of Waterville, with whom she’d climbed up the abutment, called for help around 2:30 p.m.
It was the second time in two days that firefighters went to the abutment to help rescue someone, according to fire Capt. John Gromek. On Monday, Bradley and a different woman were on the abutment and firefighters helped her get down, but without the aid of the ladder truck.
Fire Lt. Scott Holst said firefighters often train in that area of the riverbank.
Waterville Deputy Police Chief Charles Rumsey said police did not know of any recent problems on the abutment before Monday, but officials said people should stay off of it. Gromek said not only do people risk getting hurt, but when they need help getting down, it ties firefighters up when there may be bigger emergencies to attend to.
The abutment, which is not attached to anything, is in a rapid part of the Kennebec River, about a quarter-mile south of the Brookfield Dam and about a half-mile north of Ticonic Falls and the Lockwood Dam.
Bradley and his girlfriend, Darlene Champagne, 51, who also was on the riverbank Tuesday, live at the nearby Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter. Bradley said he often spends hours on the abutment.
“I was up there all day Sunday and all day yesterday,” he said. “There were four kids up there earlier today — 16, 17 (years old), maybe.”
Tuesday, firefighters drove Tower 1, a ladder truck, to the scene at the north end of Head of Falls and extended the ladder to the abutment. Fire rescue technician Mark Hamilton helped strap a belt around Temple’s waist, and she climbed a short ladder and got into the bucket. The ladder then carried the bucket to the riverbank, a couple of yards away, and Temple climbed out.
Looking frightened but relieved, Temple said she was glad to be on the ground.
“Climbing up was easier,” she said shortly after she was helped off the abutment. “Looking down was a lot harder than I thought.” The abutment, made of granite blocks, has a steplike end to it that makes it climbable.
“I’m very nerved up,” Temple said. “That’s what I was worried about the most — falling down. My equilibrium went way down.”
Before Temple was rescued Tuesday, her friends, firefighters and others stood on the steep bank of the river and watched.
Temple, wearing a pink-and-purple-checked shirt, black pants and white sneakers, was crouched down on the top of the abutment.
Kim Chapman, 27, of Augusta, said she had driven Temple to Waterville to see Temple’s friend, Bradley, and they all had gone out on the abutment to enjoy the nice day. They were there more than an hour before Temple’s troubles started, Chapman said.
“Mary and I decided to leave to go visit a friend, and I got down OK, but she got scared,” Chapman said. “I’ve never been down here before. It’s a nice, sunny day. It’s my day off.”
Chapman said she had her own brush with a fire department the day before. She had to call the Augusta Fire Department on Monday.
“I was cooking bacon and it set the alarm off to the whole building,” she said.