Linda Scott stands on the pedestrian bridge and looks at the tribute she organized Wednesday for two young brothers who fell into the Androscoggin River on Tuesday night. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

AUBURN — At the end of the footbridge near Bonney Park, a half-dozen flowers, balloons and teddy bears were tied to the rails, dripping from the rain Wednesday night.

The items were meant as tributes to two young brothers who had fallen into the river the night before. They also had a larger purpose: People who visited the park Wednesday hoped that the boys’ parents would see that the community cares about them.

“Everyone feels so hopeless right now,” said Linda Doucette Scott of Lewiston, who came with flowers at about dinnertime. “Nobody knows what to do. The parents need to know that we’re thinking of them – that they’re not alone.”

Larissa Brown of Auburn planned to head down to the park Wednesday night with a candle.

“It’s great to see the community coming together to support this family, especially since they were new to the area and might not know many people,” Brown said. “I have two daughters that are the same ages, and (I) have an office on Main Street in Auburn not far from where the boys went into the water, so this hits home for me. I want to go to the bridge with a candle and stand silently for a while sending out healing and loving thoughts to all those who are impacted. It’s the very least I can do.”

Brown and others said they were thinking not only of the boys and their family, but also of the first responders – the police, firefighters, paramedics and volunteers who struggled along the riverbanks Tuesday night and Wednesday in hopes of saving two young lives.

“The rescuers are so selfless and I think they can often come under fire when they make tough decisions – like suspending the search last night,” Brown said.

“Even being trained to do this work it is so traumatic to be searching to recover a little boy out of the river,” she said. “I’m sure many of them have kids of their own and their hearts are breaking, just like many others in the community.”

Bonney Park, typically populated by people walking dogs, having picnics or playing with their children, was nearly deserted Wednesday evening, in large part because of pouring rain.

Earlier in the day, several people visited the area and examined the spot where the two children had fallen into the river. Some wondered why there is not more fencing down there or why there had not been greater effort to prevent accidents such as this one.

It is a natural thought, but according to police and others, accidental drownings in the area of Bonney Park are rare. Most who have lived and worked in the area had to think back to the early 1980s to recall a similar tragedy.

On April 6, 1981, Auburn police officers Rodney “Rocky” Bonney and John Perrino responded to the trestle behind Florian’s on Main Street after a boy fell into the river.

Both officers dove into the river in an attempt to save the boy, but the current was too strong, witnesses said at the time. Perrino was able to swim back to safety, but Bonney and the boy drowned.

The park was later named in Bonney’s memory.

Statistics on drownings in the area were not available Wednesday. Police said that while people have drowned in the Androscoggin River, they are typically the result of boating mishaps or jumps from bridges.

Scott said she grew up in the area of Roak Block in Auburn and used to play along the river as a child. The last drowning she remembers was the incident that claimed the lives of Bonney and the boy he was attempting to save.

Of the Tuesday night incident involving two young brothers, she said: “There’s really no one to blame here. It’s a tragedy, is what it is.”

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