SKOWHEGAN — Hannah Pillsbury was finishing a six-mile run Sunday evening on Island Avenue when she heard a group of young boys screaming for help.

Pillsbury, who was with her boyfriend, Job FitzGerald, on one of their normal running routes, ran toward the Swinging Bridge where she saw a man in the water and heard people saying he couldn’t swim.

“I took my shoes off and said, ‘I’m a lifeguard. I can help,’ ” said Pillsbury, 24, of Skowhegan, who spent nine years as a certified lifeguard before recently becoming a nurse.

She first saw the man in the Kennebec River behind the Federated Church, a popular swimming spot, but he was quickly drifting downstream near Island Dairy Treat toward the Weston Dam, said Pillsbury.

There was a boat in the water, and Pillsbury asked the owner if she could borrow a life jacket, grabbed it and swam out to the man, 62-year-old Peter Gary, also of Skowhegan.

“He was floating pretty good. He wasn’t under the water, but he said he couldn’t move because he couldn’t swim,” said Pillsbury.


By the time she reached Gary, they were about 40 feet from the Weston Dam, she said. She gave Gary the life jacket, but he couldn’t put it on, and so she put it on him and brought him to the boat, just as the fire department was arriving.

“I’m a strong swimmer so I knew I could do it,” said Pillsbury. “It’s really just a coincidence that we were there. I would have been mad if I found out it happened before or after I had run by. I would have felt bad.”

Skowhegan Police Chief Ted Blais said Gary jumped off the bridge, a popular swimming spot, at around 6:46 p.m.

“It’s right above the dam,” said Blais. “People do swim there, but I guess he had trouble and was lucky that the bystanders saw him.”

Gary, who could not be reached Monday, was taken to Redington-Fairview General Hospital and was released, according to a nursing supervisor. Pillsbury, who didn’t know his name, said she was relieved Monday to learn that he was OK.

Rachel Ohm can be contacted at 612-2368 or at

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