A 38-year-old South Berwick woman was missing on the Saco River in Fryeburg after her canoe capsized, and two police officers who were trying to find her were seriously injured.

One of the officers, 20-year-old Nathan Desjardins, remained in critical condition at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston on Monday afternoon.

Emergency crews wrapped up their search for Jennifer Bousquet by late Sunday afternoon as treacherous river conditions made their efforts difficult.

The search was expected to resume Monday, but the Maine Warden Service was considering it a recovery effort.

Bousquet disappeared after the canoe she was riding in with Wayne Demers, 62, of Somersworth, New Hampshire, capsized about 3:50 p.m. Saturday near mile 8 of the Saco River.

A second canoe paddled by Brian Day, 54, of South Berwick, who was riding alongside them, also capsized in the roiling waters.

Demers and Day made it to shore with the help of another canoeist, but the woman disappeared, said Maj. Chris Cloutier of the warden service.

The two Fryeburg police officers, Desjardins and 51-year-old Dale Stout, were hurt as they searched for the woman in a police boat. They were thrown from the boat after it hit something on or near the shore, the warden service said.

They were taken by LifeFlight helicopter to the Lewiston hospital. On Monday afternoon, Desjardins was still in critical condition and Stout had been released.

Stout is also a firefighter/paramedic with the Biddeford Fire Department.

Biddeford Fire Chief Scott Gagne released a statement Monday saying that the department’s peer support team have been working with Stout and his family as he recovers.

“Dale has been a valued career member of our department for the past 11 years. We wish him a speedy recovery. Our thoughts also go out to Officer Desjardins and his family,” Gagne said in a statement.

Fryeburg police were receiving support from across the state Sunday, including from the Yarmouth, Bridgton and Westbrook police departments.

“As you can imagine, this has been a difficult and exhausting day for Fryeburg police staff,” Fryeburg Police Chief Joshua Potvin said in a Facebook post.

“The Westbrook Police Department sends thoughts and prayers to our brothers and sisters with the Fryeburg Police Department,” said the Westbrook police Facebook page.

The Desjardins family released a statement to WCSH-TV saying that Nathan Desjardins suffered “intensive head trauma” and that his “mother, father and older brother are by his side 24/7.”

“Nathan is the most caring and compassionate person,” the family statement said. “He has a genuine concern for the well-being of those around him and of all other living things. He has a strong sense of right and wrong and always tries to live up to high moral standards. We couldn’t be more proud of him and all the things he stands for.”

The warden service used its dive team, K9 team and aviation crew to try to locate Bousquet.

Cloutier described the river as extremely high, fast and cold because of recent rains, which complicated the search.

River conditions were expected to be about the same Monday, Cloutier said in an email response to questions Sunday evening.

“There is a significant amount of underwater debris that the divers have been contending with, making progress extremely slow,” Cloutier said.

The water temperature was about 50 degrees and hypothermia could set in quickly, Cloutier said. He said it is not clear whether the woman was wearing a life jacket.

The search was based at Walker’s Falls Campground in Brownfield, on a remote stretch of the river that is part of the Sanborn Wildlife Management Area.

The area can be accessed down a long dirt road or by canoe. A search by airplane was also conducted Sunday afternoon.

Some of the canoeists making their way downriver stopped at the search staging area, where the American Red Cross was handing out water and snacks to the searchers. The Fryeburg police and rescue departments were also helping in the search.

 

 

Staff Writer Joe Lawlor contributed to this report.

Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: QuimbyBeth