March 10, 2010

Huge wave hits Acadia visitors, kills 1


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A crew of rescue workers aboard a U.S. Coast Guard boat rescue a man from the ocean about 1/8th of a mile from where he was swept in near Thunder Hole as seen from Ocean Drive in Acadia National Park. Officials say a large wave in Maine's Acadia National Park swept five people into the sea and three are still missing. (Photo courtesy of Glenn Tucker via Bangor Daily News)

Glenn Tucker

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Staff Writer

A 7-year-old New York girl died and 11 others were hospitalized Sunday after a huge ocean wave slammed into visitors at Acadia National Park.

The ''rogue wave'' hit about 20 people near Thunder Hole, according to the Coast Guard, one of several agencies involved in the incident. Three people were swept into the water and plucked from the ocean by a lifeboat crew, including a girl who had no vital signs, according to the Coast Guard.

The girl died and her parents were injured, said Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety. He said the family was from New York City, but he had no further information about them Sunday evening.

The two others pulled from the water were the 7-year-old's father and a 12-year-old Maine girl from Belfast who was not related to them, said Acadia Chief Ranger Stuart West. Both were hospitalized, but West declined to release their names.

The nine others taken to the hospital mostly had broken bones from being slammed into the rocks, he said.

The large waves hit Thunder Hole as the combination of an astronomically high tide and a storm surge from Hurricane Bill created dangerous surf conditions along most of Maine's coast.

Thunder Hole is a cavernous inlet where incoming waves striking rocks can produce a sound like that of a distant clap of thunder. Visitors can walk down a set of stairs to a railed platform and look down into the inlet.

Mark Belserene, a spokesman for the Maine Emergency Management Agency, said there was some confusion after the wave hit as a crowd estimated at 75 people scattered.

James Kaiser of Bar Harbor was taking photographs when he heard shouts that people had been swept into the 55-degree water.

''I could see two people's heads bobbing in the water,'' Kaiser said. He thought they would be pushed back to shore because the waves were coming in so hard, but the current took them away from shore instead.

The Coast Guard sent a Falcon jet and a Jayhawk helicopter from Cape Cod to the scene. The Maine Marine Patrol and the National Park Service also were involved with the search.

At Mount Desert rock, which is 40 miles offshore, a wave-monitoring gauge recorded seas 17 feet high, said Kirk Apffel, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray.

Hurricane Bill passed about 300 miles to the southeast of Portland, Apffel said, but created enough of a storm surge to worry officials. A surf advisory posted Saturday was due to expire Sunday night.

Several towns in York County closed their beaches to swimming Sunday. Red flags were posted on all the beaches in Biddeford, Kennebunk, Old Orchard Beach, Ogunquit, Saco, Wells and York.

''It's pretty violent out here. We are getting hammered by some really big waves. Right now, there is no beach visible to me,'' said Bob Bohlmann, York County's emergency management director, who was standing Sunday afternoon near Wells Beach.

''It was great surfing this morning, but it's nasty now with all the rip tides,'' he said.

Bohlmann, who said he was seeing waves at least 10 feet high at Wells Beach, said he received reports of rocks that washed ashore on Long Sands Road, near Long Sands Beach in York.

In Scarborough, police said Higgins Beach and town-owned Scarborough Beach remained open despite the storm surge.

Apffel, the meterologist, said Novia Scotia was expected to feel the brunt of the effects from Hurricane Bill. Storm remnants from Bill will eventually sweep over Europe, he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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Additional Photos

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Hurricane Bill
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Hurricane Bill



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