Firefighters hold a line of rope Tuesday night as they prepare to rescue a driver stuck in floodwaters on Route 24 on the Gardiner-Richmond line. Courtesy of Richmond Fire Department

RICHMOND — Two motorists were rescued from Kennebec River floodwaters that covered a section of Route 24 on the Gardiner-Richmond line in waist-deep water Tuesday night.

The rescues are among the latest efforts by first responders to save lives as central Maine experiences its worst flooding since 1987. Two Mainers have been killed during the storm that entered the region Sunday night, and at least two others are missing after being swept into the Swift River in Mexico.

In Richmond, one driver drove into the water attempting to cross the flooded section around 8:30 p.m. — roughly the time when the raging river was at its crest of flooding. Her car start floating before she made it all the way across.

Richmond firefighters arrived on the Richmond side of the flooded road. One firefighter donned a dry suit and, with a rope attached so he could be pulled back in if needed, waded out into the water. By then Fire Chief Steve Caswell said the water was 3 to 4 feet deep up to the woman’s floating car. She climbed on his back, piggyback style, and was carried to the dry area of the road.

“She got on one of the rescuers’ back, who got her back to dry land,” Caswell said.

That driver was the second to be rescued by firefighters that night after attempting to drive through the floodwaters. Earlier, around 6:30 p.m., firefighters responded to a call that someone was trapped in the car in the water. That motorist was also helped from the water, and their vehicle was towed out by an AC Towing wrecker.


Neither of the motorists were injured, and both cars were recovered by a tow truck.

A firefighter wades through floodwaters on Route 24 to rescue a trapped driver on the Gardiner-Richmond line Tuesday night. Courtesy of Richmond Fire Department

Gardiner Rescue responded to the Gardiner side of the flooded road, to assist.

Caswell said the road was closed and both sides of the flooded section were marked with cones, barricades and signs, but the motorists apparently went around them. Caswell said when firefighters were still at the site following the second rescue, they watched as another vehicle, which had apparently gone around barricades, approached the water from the Gardiner side but turned around without trying to cross.

“Apparently, cones, signs and barricades weren’t enough for people,” Caswell said. “It boils down to the life safety of others, and us. We don’t want people getting hurt, or to put ourselves at more risk than we have to. This was a very lucky, good outcome. We all know it’s an inconvenience, but it’s a big safety concern.”

The road was initially closed to traffic Tuesday morning after officials noticed 4 or 5 inches of water covering the roadway. It got deeper and deeper, reaching about 2 1/2 feet by the time the first motorist needed to be pulled out around 6:30 p.m., and up to 3 or 3 feet for the second, around 8:30 p.m.

As of late Wednesday morning, Route 24, also known as River Road and which roughly follows alongside the Kennebec River, was still covered in water and closed to traffic, near the Gardiner-Richmond line, though Caswell said the water was receding and the road would be opened back up soon, when it was safe to do so.

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