Staff Writer

BIDDEFORD — Two kayakers who were reported missing on the Saco River early Wednesday morning have been found safe.

According to Lt. David Bourbeau, the U.S. Coast Guard’s waterways management chief for Maine, late Tuesday night a male University of New England student who had been kayaking near the mouth of the river approached a few female students on a beach on campus and told them two other kayakers, whom he wasn’t kayaking with but saw on the water, might be in distress.

One of the students told her resident assistant about the encounter, who reported it to the college’s security department, who reported it to the Coast Guard, said Bourbeau.

By sunrise Wednesday, the Coast Guard had a boat and helicopter searching the river. A USCG airplane eventually joined the search, which was expanded to include the shoreline, and Maine Marine Patrol, the Biddeford police and fire departments, the Saco and Scarborough fire departments and the Cape Elizabeth wet team provided additional air and water assistance.

But just before 11 a.m. Wednesday, Bourbeau said the two kayakers who were believed to be missing, who are also UNE students, phoned school officials from their rooms to report they were safe. They made it back to shore under their own power and were never in distress, he said.

On Wednesday, Crystal Canney, a spokesperson for UNE, would only identify the students as one male and one female. They were kayaking together in one boat that wasn’t owned by the college, she said.

Bourbeau said in total the search operation likely cost several thousands of dollars, but he doesn’t consider it a wasted effort.

“That’s what we’re here to do,” he said. “In this case there’s no wrongdoing. There’s no request to seek reimbursement. That’s off the table.”

Bourbeau said the case serves as a reminder of the importance of safe boating practices.

These include making a plan, letting others know about your plan, dressing appropriately, wearing a life jacket, carrying a marine radio and labeling your canoe or kayak with contact information or a registration number, he said.

— Staff Writer Angelo J. Verzoni can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or [email protected]

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