SPRINGVALE — Michael Lancaster liked to hike, and he liked to garden. He liked to drive out in the country.

“He was a real, true friend,” said Karen Harley. “He was my best friend.”

Michael Lancaster

Lancaster, 64, of Sanford died Thursday afternoon while swimming in the Mousam River at Holdsworth Park, just downriver from the Springvale Recreation Area.

Deputy Police Chief Tim Strout said witnesses told police that a man had been swimming in the river just before 2:30 p.m. when he became distressed and called out for help.

“Bystanders were able to pull the man from the water and the lifeguard on duty began CPR,” Strout said in a statement.

Sanford Fire Department personnel continued trying to resuscitate Lancaster but were unable to revive him, Strout said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Strout said it was his understanding that Lancaster was swimming by himself in a spot downriver, to the right of a cordoned-off swimming spot at the Springvale Recreation Area portion of Holdsworth Park.

Sanford Parks and Recreation director Alan Grady said Thursday that youngsters in the park saw and heard rescue crews responding, as the day camp area was the closest access point to the scene.

Sanford Parks and Recreation employees as well as other city employees were offered online counseling on Friday afternoon.

Harley recalled her friendship with Lancaster, which goes back several years.

He mowed her lawn, painted her house, and the two would go driving up to Evans Notch in New Hampshire. She said he liked to mine for gemstones and minerals like quartz and amethyst. He let her drive his motorcycle – a Harley-Davidson.

“He would go out of his way to help anyone,” she said, pointing out that Lancaster had rented a room in her home during a time when she was having financial difficulties.

Harley said Lancaster had two sons, and was a grandfather. He had several siblings.

Lancaster was employed at Getchell Bros. Ice in Sanford. Office manager Shari Demers said he had started working there this summer as a driver’s helper, delivering ice.

“He seemed to enjoy his job,” said Demers. “He was always reliable, and he was a hard worker.”

This was the first mishap resulting in a death in the Mousam River since 2010, when a 4-year-old boy who was on a walking trail with his family members slipped and fell into the river in early March of that year. The boy’s mother jumped in to save him and brought him to shore, but he could not be revived.

Service arrangements for Lancaster had not been set as of Friday afternoon.

Harley said she misses her friend.

“We were two peas in a pod,” said Harley. “He was always busy, and fun-loving. He was my best friend.”

Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444, at 282-1535, ext. 327, or at:

[email protected]

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