Sean Scanlon was playing in a riverfront park Friday night when he heard screams coming from across the Kennebec River saying there was a child in the water. So Scanlon acted on instinct and did what he said anyone would’ve done in that situation.

Wearing a long-sleeve shirt, jeans and work boots, Scanlon jumped into the river and swam for a few seconds until he came upon the boy, who was wearing a hoodie and a diaper and was floating face down with his rear in the air.

“He was blue in the face and his whole body was turning blue, and I knew he wasn’t breathing,” Scanlon said Saturday afternoon from the spot where he dove into the water. “I didn’t hesitate and I didn’t think. I was bringing that kid in one way or the other.”

Scanlon turned the boy face-up and carried him to shore while patting his back attempting to get the boy to cough up any water he may have swallowed. When he reached the shore, he attempted chest compressions, but as he heard sirens, he knew any first responders wouldn’t be able to find him on the shore, so he carried the boy up the bank.

“He was spitting up water and puking up food, so I knew he was trying,” Scanlon said. “I looked at my son and told him to go get a firefighter and bring him down to me. He was watching the whole thing.”

Maj. Jared Mills of the Augusta Police Department confirmed Saturday afternoon that the child was alive following the reported drowning, but his condition is unknown. An initial police department release called the incident a “drowning” and didn’t specify whether the boy was alive.

Police are continuing to investigate the near-drowning of a 2-year-old boy in the Kennebec River in Augusta Friday night, police said Saturday afternoon. Augusta officers and detectives are investigating to determine whether “any crimes … may have been committed in connection to this incident,” according to an Augusta Police Department news release Saturday morning.

People on the west side of the Kennebec River on Front Street first noticed a small child in the water about 6 p.m. Friday, the release said.

The witnesses thought the child was playing and swimming in the water along the east bank of the river, near the East Side Boat Landing, the release said. But the child was “in distress and drowning,” police said, and witnesses began “yelling attempting to get anyone’s attention at the East Side Boat Landing Playground.”

Scanlon, of Dresden, said he had just taken a phone call but was distracted by the sounds from across the river. So he ran down to investigate.

“Because of where the sun was setting behind the courthouse, I couldn’t see anybody across the river, but I realized they were saying there was a kid in the water,” he said. “I look all around until I saw what appeared to be a body. I ran down to the shoreline and realized my 4-year-old was following me, so I told him to stand there and not move, and then I jumped in.”

Scanlon said if not for his son leading the first responders to him and the boy, the outcome might have been different.

“I knew (the first responders) didn’t know where the kid was and that they were still looking,” Scanlon said. “All I could think about was what if this was my kid.”

Augusta Fire and Rescue crews arrived shortly after and took over lifesaving care, and the child became responsive and was taken to the hospital. Scanlon said he heard that the boy was alive but wasn’t sure of his condition.

Police said Saturday morning that they have identified the child and his family, and are expected to release further information later whether criminal charges would be brought. Mills said there should be more information by Monday.

Scanlon said there was nobody in the park at the time of the incident except for he and his son. He said he was told that police officers went door-to-door in the area and found the boy’s father asleep on the couch in a nearby residence. Mills declined to comment on the identity of the parents or their whereabouts at the time of the incident.

 

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

jpafundi@centralmaine.com

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ