BUXTON — A path near the Salmon Falls Bridge on the Saco River was swarmed with young people eager to escape Tuesday’s sweltering heat.

It was Dan St. Piere’s first time jumping into the river.

“It’s an adrenaline rush,” said St. Piere, 18, of Alfred. “It feels like you’re flying.”

The heavily traveled bridge that carries Route 202 over the Saco River is still attracting young divers, despite efforts by police to chase them away.

The summer tradition is more popular than ever, even after an outcry over a near-fatal accident in which a boy was hit by a pickup truck on the bridge last summer.

The bridge, which connects the York County towns of Hollis and Buxton, is about 25 feet above the river.

On Tuesday, nearly 20 young people gathered at the swimming area to seek relief from the heat.

Kelly Boure, 27, of East Waterboro said it’s a fun spot to hang out.

“You lose your stomach when you jump out,” Boure said. “It’s a good time.”

But the swimming area has long been a headache for police.

Jack Vincent, 13, of Scarborough was critically injured on July 28, 2009, when he darted into traffic to get a running start to jump off the bridge. He suffered broken bones and had a leg operation.

His mother, Lori Fletcher, said her son has made a full recovery, noting that he made the Scarborough Juniors Little League all-star team this summer. Fletcher declined to comment on the continued jumping at the bridge.

After the accident, the York County Sheriff’s Office asked the Maine Department of Transportation to install a fence above the concrete railing to prevent people from jumping into the river. The county commissioners agreed to donate fence from the former county jail.

Sheriff Maurice Ouellette said state officials never responded to his request.

In recent years, officers have written summonses for criminal trespass on the bridge, but the cases were never prosecuted. Criminal trespass requires a refusal to leave. Swimmers usually comply with such requests by jumping off the bridge.

Buxton police provide additional coverage at the bridge. Police Chief Michael Grovo said officers drive over the bridge several times a day. He said there’s a growing concern about young people drinking in the area.

“Drinking adds fuel to the fire. The kids get more daring,” Grovo said. “It’s a constant problem down there.”

Many young people who were at a former bridge abutment downstream Tuesday were drinking.

The bridge abutment area poses dangers, too.

Shayne Pouliot climbed about 15 feet to the top of a homemade ladder nailed to a tree next to the bridge abutment. He braced a hand against it and walked onto a branch before plunging about 25 feet into the river.

“If the cop sits there, no one will jump off the bridge,” Pouliot said before the jump. “So we wait until they leave.”

 

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

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