May 23, 2012

Missing student's body headed to Augusta for autopsy

By David Hench
Staff Writer

PORTLAND – Police confirmed this afternoon that they found the body of missing Harvard student Nathan Bihlmaier in Portland Harbor earlier today.

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The body of Nathan Bihlmaier is lifted into the waiting hearse at a restricted portion of the Maine State Pier on Tuesday, May 22, 2012. The hearse took his body to Augusta for an autopsy.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

Nathan and Nancy Ho Bihlmaier

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His body is being taken to Augusta for an autopsy, authorities said.

Police identified Bihlmaier by his clothing – a black windbreaker, blue pants, a gray T-shirt and a blue webbed belt – which witnesses and security cameras confirmed he was wearing when he went missing early Sunday morning in the Old Port.

Bihlmaier, a Harvard Business School student and expecting father, had come to Portland this weekened with two friends to celebrate his pending graduation from the prestigious business school.

Graduation is scheduled for Thursday.

Portland Police Department and Maine State Police divers searched for more than two days for Bihlmaier's body in Portland Harbor, after his phone stopped sending signals at 12:54 a.m. Sunday morning.

But shortly after noon Tuesday, a hearse pulled up to the Portland Ocean terminal along the waterfront, between the megaberth and the Maine State Pier. It met the Portland Fire Boat and one of the active search boats, before leaving the scene around 12:45 p.m.

Brian Kenny, a spokesman for Harvard Business School who has spoken on behalf of the family during this ordeal, said the family is "very upset, stressed."

"I think we were all holding out hope he was alive," Kenny said.

The dean of Harvard Business School, Nithin Nohria, who attended the press conference, said the school was a very tight-knit group, and the tragedy has shaken the community.

At the press conference, police also updated the timeline prior to Bihlmaier's disappearance.

They said Bihlmaier was actually asked to leave Ri Ra Irish Pub at 11:30 p.m., not at 12:20 a.m., as they'd previously stated. The previous timeline was based on the recollections of friends, employees and bar patrons. The new timeline is based on security-camera footage.

Shortly after midnight, Bihlmaier tried to describe the United States Customhouse to his friends so they could rendezvous. But Bihlmaier's friends did not see him again that night, and when he had not returned to where they were staying at the Hilton Garden Inn by 9 a.m. Sunday, they called police.

Police found a tan flipflop in the water Monday, which they say also belonged to Bihlmaier.

This story will be updated.


Police continued to search Tuesday for a missing Harvard Business School student last seen more than two days ago near the waterfront in the city's Old Port.

Police divers searched the harbor along the waterfront for Nathan Bihlmaier, 31, whose wife is pregnant with their first child. They left the water near the Casco Bay Ferry terminal about 6:30 p.m. Monday, and returned to the water at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Divers were particularly focused Tuesday on areas around Ri Ra Irish Pub on Commericial Street, where Bihlmaier was last seen. Boats patrolled the misty harbor, looking for any signs of Bihlmaier.

While divers resumed their search, friends of Bihlmaier somberly waited along the shore as police scoured the harbor bottom. Some canvassed the area and put up posters with Bihlmaier's face.

Members of the Maine State Police dive team were using side-scanning sonar equipment Tuesday morning, which enabled them to broaden their search. The apparatus generated an image of the ocean bottom, enabling authorities to search farther into the bay, said Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck.

But Portland Police Lt. Gary Rogers said the location of the search presented some specific challenges.

"If someone was to go in right off the pier, there's a lot of debris and it's difficult to navigate and see what's down there," Rogers said.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Members of the State and Portland police dive teams search the waters near the State Pier for Nathan Bihlmaier on Monday, May 21, 2012, who went missing after a night with friends in the Old Port.

John Patriquin / Staff Photographer

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Spencer Fuller and Moxie with Maine Search & Rescue Dogs assist members of the State and Portland police dive teams Monday, May 21, 2012 as they search the waters near the State Pier for Nathan Bihlmaier, who went missing after a night with friends in the Old Port.

John Patriquin / Staff Photographer

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A poster on Commercial Street shows the face of Nathan Bihlmaier, 31, who vanished in Portland early Sunday morning.

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Portland police divers prepare to search the waters between the Maine State Pier and Maine Wharf for Nathan Bihlmaier, who disappeared in the Old Port early Sunday.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer


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