BUCKSPORT — A young boy and his grandfather died Friday afternoon after the child fell from a dock into the Penobscot River and the man jumped in to rescue him, according to state and local officials.
The Maine Department of Marine Resources identified the boy as 5-year-old Aiden Bulkley of Bangor and his grandfather as Ronald LaRue, 54, of Mayfield, Kentucky.
The two were fishing from the Bucksport town pier late Friday morning when Aiden fell in and his grandfather tried to save him, department spokesman Jeff Nichols said.
The current from an outgoing tide was apparently too strong for LaRue and the two were quickly separated in the water, Nichols said.
A passerby saw the two in the water and called 911. Aiden was pulled from the water within minutes by a Bucksport police officer and a Maine State Police trooper. The boy was taken to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, where attempts to revive him were unsuccessful.
“There were several public safety members within vision of the intersection where this occurred when the first call came out,” Fire Chief Craig Bowden said, referring to the intersection of Routes 1 and 15 near the Verona Island Bridge. “The state trooper and a local patrolman and myself went into the water and retrieved the child and got him back to the banking.”
Family members said the boy did not know how to swim, Nichols said.
The Maine Marine Patrol dispatched two boats at about 11:30 a.m. to try to find LaRue. A Maine Marine Patrol airplane also joined the search.
A member of the Maine State Dive Team located his body around 1:20 p.m. in 4 to 5 feet of water about 100 yards downstream of the dock. It was roughly the same location where Aiden was found.
The dock is a popular fishing pier, part of the town’s Veteran’s Memorial Park and part of Bucksport’s mile-long riverfront walkway. Bowden did not know if the pair were fishing or just sightseeing.
Bowden said the water temperature was not extreme.
“It’s cool here, but of course we’re in the middle of the Penobscot River flowing down and the ocean coming in,” he said.
The area is heavily affected by tides, with the float at the end of the fishing dock lying on exposed mud at low tide. The incident, however, happened shortly after high tide, which was at 9:08 a.m.