Rescuers struggle to rush the 9-year-old boy out of the Androscoggin River on Tuesday night in Auburn. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

AUBURN — A 9-year-old boy was in critical condition after being pulled from the Androscoggin River on Tuesday evening, while the search for his 5-year-old brother who also fell into the river was suspended until daylight Wednesday, Auburn Deputy Police Chief Jason Moen said.

A police officer scans the Androscoggin River on Tuesday night near Riverside Drive in Auburn. Victoria McBean photo

The boys live on Main Street but were not being named Tuesday night, Moen said.

Moen said the brothers were playing by the river near Bonney Park when one of them fell into the water accidentally. His brother tried to rescue him, but fell in, too. Their father “tried to save them and was unable to. Both boys were then lost down the river.”

The boys were spotted floating in the river around  7 p.m., prompting dozens of firefighters, police and others to rush to the scene and launch boats.

The 9-year-old was found by a diver, put in a private canoe and brought to the riverbank behind 230 Riverside Drive, near Gagne & Sons construction facility.

He was first taken to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston then flown to Maine Medical Center in Portland where he was listed in critical condition, Moen said.

The boys’ parents were with him, the chief deputy said.

The search for the 5-year-old boy was suspended by 10 p.m. because it was too dark and the waters were too choppy to continue, Moen said.

Kevin McBean who lives on Riverside Drive said he, his wife, Victoria, and friends were having a campfire in the yard that overlooks the river. They saw what they believed was one of the boys.

Rescuers bring the 9-year-old boy back to shore on Tuesday evening. A diver, seen behind the canoe, helped with the recovery. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

“We saw a shoe floating, the top of a shoe, a couple of inches out of the water,” Victoria Bean said. “It was the first one (we saw). It was in the middle of the water.”

Kevin McBean ran frantically down the street shouting for police.

“Officer! Officer!” McBean yelled as he ran, barefoot. “Officer! Officer! We found the second one! He’s got a white shirt! A minute ago! A white shirt in the water!”

Police ran back down Riverside Drive with McBean, while a helicopter equipped with searchlights flew low over the water.

A helicopter crew helps search for the boys who were seen floating Tuesday evening in the Androscoggin River. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

“All of a sudden lights started to go this way and that,” he said of emergency vehicles.

McBean asked an officer why he wanted a boat.

“He said, ‘Two kids are in the water.’ So I went door to door, hoping to find a boat. I didn’t find one,” McBean said.

His face was grim. “This sucks.”

Firefighters and police officers rushed to both sides of the river to locate the youths and get boats into the water. Along Riverside Drive, rescue teams were spread out over at least a mile, with firefighters, police officers and volunteers running along the riverbanks as they searched.

 Auburn Police Chief Phil Crowell was at the scene, getting briefed on the rescue and speaking to witnesses.

As Victoria spoke, friends Brandon Hodsdon and Tiffeny Mendoza stood nearby.

Emergency personnel cross the Bernard Lown Peace Bridge during the search for two children reported to be in the Androscoggin River on Tuesday evening. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Hodsdon said he saw what looked like a white shirt “over a little body. Scary.”

“This is the first time we’ve heard of something like this happening,” said McBean,  who has lived on Riverside Drive for a year. “It’s heartbreaking,” he said.

Mendoza wondered how young kids “would end up near the water. I have a 3-year-old and a 4-year-old,” she said, looking at her children on a nearby porch. “I’m happy my kids are safe.”

Bonney Park is named for Auburn Police Office Rodney “Rocky” Bonney, who drowned April 6, 1981, while saving the life of a teenage boy who fell into the river while riding his bicycle along the railroad trestle/foot bridge behind Florian’s Market on Main Street in Auburn.

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