Updated Thursday at 10:45 a.m.

GARDINER — Two men were charged and a third was hospitalized after two all-terrain vehicles broke through ice on the Kennebec River late Tuesday night, plunging all three men into the frigid water.

An unidentified man, who was a passenger on a four-wheeler driven by Brian Cray, 22, of Gardiner, was taken to MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta for treatment of hypothermia.

Cray was charged with operating an unregistered ATV and operating to endanger, said Warden Troy Thibodeau.

Brett Ellis, 24, of Gardiner was charged with operating under the influence and operating an unregistered ATV, Thibodeau said. Of the three, only Ellis was wearing a helmet, Thibodeau said.

Police have been unable to identify the passenger who was treated at the hospital. The man, believed to be from New Hampshire, apparently provided Gardiner Police with a false name, Thibodeau said. Neither Ellis nor Cray claim to know the man’s name, Thibodeau said.

The unidentified man did not face charges in connection with the accident.

“He was just a witness,” Thibodeau said.

Gardiner Fire Capt. Rich Kindelan said Cray and the unidentified man got out of the water on their own and sought help, but Ellis remained trapped about 50 yards offshore.

Kindelan said Ellis was mostly out of the water, holding on to the ice, but couldn’t pull himself out.

Gardiner Fire and Rescue, assisted by Gardiner police and Maine State Police, used ropes and cold-water gear to get to Ellis and pull him out. None of the rescuers was injured.

Responders were called about 9:45 p.m. Kindelan said Ellis spent relatively little time in the frigid water.

“It was right around the corner from our station, so I would say no more than 10 to 12 minutes,” he said.

Thibodeau said ice conditions in the area are unsafe.

“It’s almost open (water) where they went through,” he said. “They were on the Gardiner side of the river, which is generally a bad idea anyway.”

Cray and Ellis have about 30 days to remove the ATVs from the river, Thibodeau said. Ellis was back at the river Wednesday, trying to remove his.

In November, Ellis was convicted in Augusta District Court of operating an all-terrain vehicle under the influence on Aug. 6 in Gardiner, according to court records. He was fined $600 and sentenced to 48 hours in jail.

CORRECTION: This story was updated at 10:45 a.m., on Feb. 16, 2012, to remove incorrect identification of the third victim. The man’s name was provided falsely to police. 


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