Kayla Murray of Lewiston looks at the floral tributes tied to the pedestrian bridge next to Bonney Park in Auburn on Thursday. Hundreds turned out for a vigil for the 5-year-old boy who was swept away in the river. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Hundreds of people attend Thursday’s vigil on the pedestrian bridge between Lewiston and Auburn for the 5-year-old who fell into the Androscoggin River on Tuesday night and his 9-year-old brother, who was rescued and remained in critical condition. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

AUBURN — One woman couldn’t stop herself from crying. She was tying a bundle of flowers to the end of the bridge at Bonney Park, but it was raining hard and her hands were shaking.

“This is just so sad,” the woman said Thursday night. “So tragic,”

Nearby, Sue Ingalls was there with her daughter and granddaughter. They, too, had brought flowers and a toy dinosaur in tribute to a pair of boys who went into the raging Androscoggin River two nights before.

“I didn’t even know these boys, but I’m so sad,” Ingalls said. “It’s such a horrible, horrible thing. I’m glad we could at least come out and show a little support for the family.”

The women were among the community members who turned out for a vigil Thursday night after authorities suspended the search for a 5-year-old boy who has been missing since he and his 9-year-old brother fell into the Androscoggin River near Bonney Park on Tuesday. The older boy was rescued and remains at Maine Medical Center in Portland. The search for the 5-year-old is expected to resume Friday morning.

Hundreds of people lined the foot bridge between Lewiston and Auburn to show their support for the boys and their parents.

“I can’t even imagine what it would be like to lose a child that young,” said 22-year-old Kayla Murray of Lewiston. “I don’t think anyone can.”

Murray said she mourned the 5-year-old who was presumed drowned, but she also was there to support the 9-year-old, who had tried to save his younger brother when he fell into the river.

“I hope he knows what a hero he is – how brave he is,” Murray said.

A Maine Warden Service crew searches the Androscoggin River on Thursday morning for the 5-year-old boy who fell into the river Tuesday evening in Auburn. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

The search so far has focused on the stretch of river between where the 9-year-old was rescued Tuesday evening and the rapids about half a mile downstream, Auburn Deputy Police Chief Jason Moen said.

The identities of the boys were still being withheld Thursday at the request of the family, Moen said.

The family recently moved to Auburn, and was having a picnic at Bonney Park. The two brothers were playing near the river when the younger boy fell into the water shortly after 7 p.m. Tuesday. His brother tried to rescue him, but also fell in, police said. Their 8-year-old sister and father also went into the water but could not reach the two brothers.

The father and daughter got back on shore and were not injured.

“It’s so great,” said April Thompson, “that so many people have come out for this.”

A grandmother of four, like so many others, Thompson said she couldn’t fathom the kind of grief being faced by boys’ family. Her daughter, 18-year-old Tiffany Burgess, was likewise struggling with tears before she had even stepped foot on the bridge.

“I feel like I’m going to cry,” she said. “So for now I’m just going to stand here. Even when you don’t know the people involved, it’s hard to handle. It’s such a tragedy.”

Sue Ingalls and Shawna Toothacher help Alyssa Mosher, 9, tie a bouquet of flowers onto the pedestrian bridge at Bonney Park in Auburn on Thursday night. Shealyn Ingalls looks on from behind the group. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

The bridge was festooned with dozens of flowers, balloons, teddy bears and other trinkets. Toy dinosaurs were everywhere: Earlier in the day, a man who said he was uncle to the boys revealed that the 5-year-old lost to the river had been particularly fond of the creatures.

The man, who lives in Augusta, said the family motto is, “This I’ll Defend,” and the slogan caught on quick. Before the vigil had even begun, signs bearing that message had been taped or tied in numerous areas in and around Bonney Park.

“It’s amazing to see the community come together like this,” said Devon Klemanski, 19, of Lewiston.

While the hundreds stood with candles and signs and mementos, Shawn Bell stood near the center of the bridge playing hymns and other songs on an acoustic guitar. A crowd of people gathered around her, singing along in the pouring rain.

About 10 minutes after she started playing, the clouds parted and the sun came out for a few minutes before day turned to night. Then, in the darkness, too many candles to count flickered along the length of the bridge as the river rushed by below.

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