A veteran Portland firefighter died in an apparent scuba diving accident Monday in Casco Bay, city and fire officials said. His body was pulled from the water near the Maine Yacht Center off Veranda Street.
John Brooks, president of Portland Firefighters Union Local 740, identified the victim as Capt. Michael Kucsma, who was stationed at the Bramhall Fire Station in the West End and was in charge of Engine 6.
“Mike was a very well-liked and respected member of the Portland Fire Department,” Brooks said late Monday. “He has a lot of friends out there, so the news has been spreading fast.”
Kucsma, 43, who lived in Buxton, was also a valued volunteer member of the Gorham Fire Department, which he had served for 28 years, Gorham Fire Chief Robert Lefebvre said.
Lefebvre broke the news to a gathering of about 60 firefighters Monday night at the fire station. “We met tonight to announce his passing. The department is greatly devastated. They were in shock,” he said. Assistant Portland Police Chief Vern Malloch said police received a report at 3:40 p.m. that an unconscious man was in the water near the yacht center on Kensington Street. Portland firefighters tried to resuscitate him but were unsuccessful, Malloch said.
Brooks said Kucsma, who joined Portland’s fire department in 1993, was diving with others when the accident occurred, but he had no other details.
In a brief news release Monday night, the city identified the body as that of an off-duty Portland firefighter who was scuba diving, but didn’t name him.
Jessica Grondin, the city of Portland’s spokeswoman, would only confirm that an off-duty firefighter died Monday afternoon on Casco Bay as the result of an apparent scuba diving accident.
Grondin said more details will be announced during a news conference Tuesday morning at the Central Fire Station on Congress Street. Fire Chief Jerry LaMoria and Police Chief Michael Sauschuck will be available to answer questions.
A preliminary investigation Monday afternoon showed no signs of a crime, but the death remains under investigation, police said.
The marina is off Veranda Street, behind the B&M Baked Beans factory, and faces Portland’s East End neighborhood. It offers boaters direct access to Casco Bay and its islands.
Lefebvre, the Gorham fire chief, said Kucsma started with his department as a college student and worked his way up as a volunteer to deputy chief.
Lefebvre said he has been in contact with Portland fire officials and is certain that some type of remembrance will be held to recognize Kucsma’s years of service.
“Unfortunately, we lost a good man today,” Brooks added.
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