BATH — Rescue workers Tuesday night had still not found the body of 35-year-old David Dieterich of Wisconsin, who slipped off a floating dock into the Kennebec River late Thursday, but the search was continuing.

Meanwhile, his family in Wisconsin is trying to come to terms with what happened.

Betsy Winterhack, one of Dieterich’s three sisters, had just texted him last week, inviting him to her 5-year-old son’s birthday party on May 17.

“My son shares the same birthday as him, and a lot of the same personality. Stubborn,” she said.

Dieterich had to say no, according to his sister, because he was heading to Maine with a pair of co-workers.

Dieterich was a millwright for Marshall Erecting, a Milwaukee-based company he’d worked with for several years, Winterhack said. He was in Maine doing subcontracting work for Bath Iron Works, according to police. The shipyard declined to say what kind of work he and his co-workers were doing.

Dieterich had only been in Maine a couple of days when the accident happened, according to his sister.

Her brother was single and didn’t have children, but had a large, close-knit group of friends who are shaken by his loss, Winterhack said.

“I think everybody is feeling there’s this kind of open-endedness,” she said. “I don’t think any of us think he’s going to turn up alive, but I still think there’s this lack of closure.”

Winterhack said she wants to come to Maine at some point, along with at least one sister.

“We want to see it; we want to see where it happened,” she said.

THE SEARCH

While the U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search Friday, Jeff Nichols, spokesman for the Maine Department of Marine Resources, said Marine Patrol searched by water and air Saturday and Sunday.

“Moving forward, the searches are going to be focused in the area that he went in the water and we’re going to be doing water and air patrols,” Nichols said.

Nichols said there’s no timeline for when the search might be called off.

“At this point the plan is to continue to conduct searches in the area, and every day they’ll make a determination for the next day or two,” Nichols said.

PIECING IT TOGETHER 

Police have reported Dieterich was out socializing with his colleagues at several bars and restaurants in downtown Bath. The three were staying at the Hampton Inn and decided to walk around downtown.

“Alcohol was consumed by all three men,” Bath Deputy Police Chief Robert Savary told The Times Record. “We do not believe the decedent or his colleagues were intoxicated, but alcohol was a factor.”

Winterhack said her brother was a fun-loving guy, “but not a big, alcoholic, drunken partier.”

Both his friends and law enforcement said the three had a few drinks but they were big, strong, healthy guys who had eaten, “and this was over the course of several hours,” Winterhack said. “It sounds like nobody thought they were drunk. They were done for the night and were going back to the hotel, right across the road from the tavern. So they said, ‘Let’s go look at the river.’ ”

They went to the north parking lot of Kennebec Tavern. The area was roped off, according to police.

She believes one of her brother’s friends stepped out onto a dock that had risen to the top of the seawall with the tide. He found it unstable and was telling her brother and the other friend not to step out.

“My brother had already stepped on it,” she said. “It was a floating pier and it was unsteady and he just slipped out into the river and they never saw him come back up.”

The water in the Kennebec is around 40 degrees this time of year.

“I will say the law enforcement we’ve talked to has been amazing and the search efforts – it’s unbelievable to think about how much work was put into this and how many people risked their lives to help find my brother,” she said.

In Wisconsin, Dieterich’s family gathered on Easter Sunday at one of his sibling’s homes.

“My sweet 18-year-old niece Katie cooked everyone brunch and we did more of what we’ve been doing – remembering Dave, trying to get over the shock, trying to work through the facts, trying to plan next steps,” Winterhack said. “Except we all keep having this feeling like someone forgot to fill him in on the time and place and that’s why he’s not there. Or like he’ll walk in the door any minute.”

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