A kayaker suffering from severe hypothermia was taken to the hospital in Augusta Friday after being pulled from the Kennebec River.

Augusta Fire Batallion Chief John Bennett said his department received a report at 2:22 p.m., of a man in a life jacket hanging on to an overturned kayak on the river. The exact location wasn’t known, but it was believed to be south of the Kennebec Arsenal complex.

“We normally use the east side boat launch (in Augusta), but we felt it was better to use the Hallowell boat launch and go upstream,” Bennett said, adding that the Hallowell Fire Department had been notified of Augusta’s intent.

In the meantime, he said, the Gardiner Fire Department had been monitoring the emergency radio traffic and offered its boat, which was already in the Kennebec River.

By the time boats from the Augusta and Gardiner fire departments reached the man, who was on the east side of the river between Kennebec Road and Butternut Park in Chelsea, Bennett estimated he had been in the water for about 30 minutes.

“The water temperature right now is very cold,” Bennett said.


While the water was relatively shallow where the man was found, he had lost his ability to move and react because of the cold water temperature. Bennett estimated he had been in the water about 30 minutes when he was reached, and he was not close enough to shore to walk there.

“Having intentionally exposed myself to hypothermic water conditions to understand what people are going through, you lose everything,” Bennett said. “You have no feeling, you have no muscle control, so had he been knocked over, the only thing that would have kept him up was his life jacket.”

He said the current of the river was also an issue, as was the low water level in the river.

When they reached the man, Bennett said, they were able to get the man out of the water and take him to MaineGeneral Medical Center.

“We got to him in time, because it was cold,” Bennett said.

Bennett declined to provide identifying details about the kayaker who was alone in the kayak, citing medical privacy laws.

“Just because it’s warm out, the water is very cold still,” he said. “You’re really jeopardizing yourself unless you are prepared to be in the water at this time of year. It might be 70 degrees out, but the water is 50 degrees.”

Comments are not available on this story.