MOXIE GORE TOWNSHIP — A man stranded next to the Kennebec River for five hours after his raft overturned in high, rushing waters was rescued Sunday.

Six wardens, six rafting guides and a plane searched for the 30-year-old in the pouring rain, eventually finding him in a small crevice on the side of a rock cliff.

Rescuers said Jon Cousins survived for two reasons: He wore a dry suit, and he stayed near the river — instead of walking for miles through unfamiliar wilderness to try to find a road.

“We were all hopeful, hoping he was just sitting on the shore somewhere, but we all knew what could have happened,” said one of the rescuers, Nathan Schultz, 19. He’s a rafting guide with Crab Apple Whitewater in The Forks, the rafting company that volunteered to search for Cousins.

Cousins was one of about 15 friends from Troy, N.Y., who came for a private rafting trip on the Kennebec River. They brought with them two rafts and five kayaks from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, although it was not a college-endorsed trip, said Cpl. Aaron Cross, with the Maine Warden Service.

The group put their rafts and kayaks in the river around 11 a.m. at Harris Station Dam in Indian Pond Township and encountered rapids a couple miles south in the Kennebec River Gorge, Cross said. Both rafts flipped around 11:30 a.m., dropping the occupants into water speeding 9,000 cubic feet per second.

The dam sometimes releases water to speed the river flow for rafting, but the melting snow and high rainfall has created a natural high release, Cross said.

“It’s pretty dangerous,” he said. “It’s just unbelievable power.”

When the group found ground just prior to Magic Falls, they realized that Cousins wasn’t with them. It took them time to reach a phone; the warden service received notice of the incident at 2:30 p.m.

“They weren’t sure if he was on shore or where he was, so that was obviously a little bit disheartening for us,” Cross said.

A warden service plane flew despite pouring rain; and Cross asked Crab Apple Whitewater if it would send a search and rescue team of rafting guides down the river since it was the closest rafting company to the river.

“I’m very appreciative of what they did for us because obviously it was totally voluntary,” Cross said.

Schultz, who went on the search and rescue mission, said it was the first of the rafting season and was comprised of five people in a raft and one person in a kayak. The man in the kayak first spotted Cousins in the crevice, about five feet above the water line, after 4:30 p.m. when he heard Cousins yelling, Schultz said.

Schultz said people’s first reaction was “just that we’re all glad he’s OK, still breathing,” he said.

Upper Kennebec Valley Ambulance Service personnel examined him where he exited the river at Carry Brook in Moxie Gore — located more than 30 miles north of Bingham.

“He was pretty much unharmed, just a little bit cold,” Cross said. The air temperature was about 48 degrees.

Erin Rhoda — 474-9534

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