December 27, 2012

Search called off, Maine students still missing

A plane, divers and boats turn up nothing except clothing that may belong to one young man.

By Edward D. Murphy emurphy@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

The search for two boat-building students who were last seen Dec. 19 has ended without turning up any evidence of the men.

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Zachery Wells, 21, of Burlington, Vt., and Prescott Wright, 23, of Barnstable, Mass.

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Searchers along with a search dog walk make their way out to Trott Island off Cape Porpoise on Monday, December 24, 2012. Zachary Wells and Prescott Wright, have been missing from Kennebunkport since Wednesday.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Staff Photographer

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Searchers from the Maine Marine Patrol used a plane Wednesday to search the waters off Cape Porpoise, and were able to see to the bottom of most of the area at low tide.

Nothing was spotted, Kennebunkport Deputy Police Chief Kurt Moses said Thursday.

Two boats -- including one with side-scan sonar -- were used to search the only area where the crew in the plane could not see to the bottom, Moses said.

After the sonar returned two "blips," divers were sent into the water, but they found nothing, Moses said.

"We were able to determine that the likelihood of them being in the harbor has been exhausted," he said.

Because of the lack of any evidence regarding the men's whereabouts, the length of time they have been missing and the snowstorm that moved in Thursday, the search was stopped, Moses said.

Police and the Marine Patrol had been looking for Zachary Wells, 21, of Burlington, Vt., and Prescott Wright, 23, of Barnstable, Mass., since they were last seen, on Dec. 19, drinking with friends at Wells' home near the Cape Porpoise pier.

Both men, who attended The Landing School in Arundel, left their wallets and cellphones behind when they left the house, police and school officials have said.

On Monday, Marine Patrol units found clothing on a ledge near Goat Island that they believe belonged to one of the men. Subsequent searches uncovered no other signs of the two.

Moses said the water was searched because of its proximity to Wells' house and interviews with friends, who said it would be in character for the two to head out on the water.

He said police and Marine Patrol units have not found a boat that the men might have used, and there have been no reports of missing boats from homeowners in the area.

However, Moses said, many of the homes in the area are seasonal so a missing boat likely wouldn't be discovered for months.

A statement from The Landing School's president, Robert DeColfmacker, was posted on the school's website.

It read, in part, "As a small, close academic community we all knew Zach and Prescott personally and knew of their passion for boats, the ocean and the marine industry, a common bond for all of us at the school. Both Zach and Prescott were dedicated students who had planned professional careers in the marine industry."

The statement said Wells was in an associate degree program in marine industry technology, with a concentration in marine systems.

Wright had graduated from the marine systems diploma program and had returned to the school after a year away to study yacht design.

Reached at his home Thursday night, DeColfmacker said he has been in contact with both students' family members. He said they are devastated.

Students are expected to return to classes Jan. 3.

"We are saddened by the turn of events," DeColfmacker said. "It looks to be an unfortunate end."

DeColfmacker said he spoke on Thursday with Wright's father, who has returned from Maine to the family's home in Massachusetts. Wells' family has gone back to Vermont.

-- Staff Writer Dennis Hoey contributed to this report.

 

Staff Writer Edward Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

emurphy@pressherald.com

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