Police respond Thursday afternoon to a report that someone had jumped from the Calumet Bridge at Old Fort Western in Augusta into the Kennebec River. Officials say a woman swam across the strong current and was able to get out of the river. She was taken to the hospital for evaluation. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — Reports of someone in the Kennebec River in Augusta shortly before 2 p.m. Thursday set emergency services into motion for a water search and possible rescue.

Brian Chamberlin, a battalion chief with the Augusta Fire Department, said when firefighters arrived with the department’s rescue boat, they saw a person, believed to be a woman, in the water under Memorial Bridge.

At about the same time, Liz Latti, a fisheries biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, was at the department’s headquarters, overlooking the Kennebec River from its western bank in downtown Augusta, when she and co-worker Kory Whittum saw what appeared to be someone swimming in the river.

“Kory said, ‘Is that a person in the river?'” said Latti, who normally works out of the Rangeley office, but was in Augusta for the day. “It was clearly someone in the middle of the river doing a backstroke. We could clearly see this woman’s arms going up over her head. (She was) distinctly heading across the current diagonally toward the shoreline.”

Latti said the Kennebec River was swollen and moving fast, thanks to the rain earlier in the week.

At about the same time, they heard their coworkers say a person was in the river and started to hear sirens.


Chamberlin said the Fire Department, which had contacted the Maine Department of Marine Resources, was getting ready to launch its rescue boat from the river’s east side.

Wardens headed from the IF&W building in vehicles down the Kennebec River Rail Trail to look for the woman, who was headed for the western bank of the river.

Latti said she and Whittum had a pretty good idea where the woman might come ashore, so they ran down along the river bank, stopping several times to check the water. Latti estimated the water temperature to be in the 30s.

“She was coming up the bank when we first saw her,” Latti said. “It was pretty amazing that she was as able to get up the bank as she was.”

Latti said the woman, who was shaken and cold, said she jumped from the Calumet Bridge at Old Fort Western.

Latti said Whittum offered his jacket to the woman, who appeared to be in her 20s, before wardens arrived and put her inside a vehicle and took her to an awaiting ambulance.


Chamberlin said the woman, who was not identified, was taken for evaluation to MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta.

The Augusta Police Department did not respond to a request Thursday afternoon for information.

Under the city’s ordinances, swimming in the Kennebec River is banned, although the ban has been waived for the Ironman 70.3 race that takes place at the end of July.

Chamberlin said Augusta’s rescue boat was not launched. Boats from the Gardiner and Farmingdale fire departments were also requested, but not needed.

“It wasn’t what I expected to see looking out the window at the Kennebec River, I can tell you that,” Latti said.

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