The Maine Warden Service has identified the 9-year-old girl who drowned in the Mattawamkeag River as Carissa Babcock of Lee.

Carissa was swimming in an area called the Sleugundy Heater Gorge when she was swept downriver, the warden service said Saturday, the day after the incident.

The warden service said Monday that information about the incident would be presented to the Penobscot County district attorney to determine whether any criminal charges are warranted.

A statement from warden service spokesman John MacDonald said the girl was trying to cross the river with four adults and two other children about 6:35 p.m. Friday when she was swept downriver. The state medical examiner’s office examined the girl’s body at a funeral home in Lincoln, the statement said.

Earlier information from the warden service said the girl was swimming across the river with Michael Tait of Lee, a friend of her mother, while her mother, Charis Rollins of Lee, was on the riverbank with two other adults and two children.

MacDonald said Monday that the whole party swam across the river, and that the other children and adults also struggled with the strong current but got across.

Tait tried to help Carissa onto rocks but she slipped away, the warden service said Sunday. She was found a quarter-mile downriver. She was not wearing a life jacket, the warden service said.

The group was not staying at the Mattawamkeag Wilderness Park Campground, as was earlier reported. Carlton Norris, manager of the town-owned campground, said the area of the river known as “the Heaters” is about a mile and a half from the park.

He said the river has flat stretches, but at that section it narrows from several hundred feet across to between 80 and 100 feet wide. “A lot of the locals swim there, but you have to be conscious what the river flow is doing,” Norris said.

With heavy rains last week, the river had risen significantly, he said. The land along that stretch of the river is owned by a family and the town has an easement to access the park, he said. The river winds through a rocky chasm before entering an area of rapids.

Often, teenagers jump into the river off the rocky bluffs above it.

A YouTube video that purports to show people jumping off the ledges into the river also shows them struggling to swim against the current to get back to shore.

According to family friends posting on Facebook, Carissa would have started fourth grade Monday. She leaves behind her parents, two siblings and a large extended family.

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.