BATH — City officials say they are investigating a Bath firefighter who was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving while he was working as a paramedic.

James W. Perry, 54, was among those responding to a possible drowning off Washington Street in Bath on Thursday. Perry has been employed by the city of Bath as a firefighter since 2006, but was responding to the incident in a paramedic role for Mid Coast Hospital, driving one of the hospital’s “fly car” vehicles. He’s been placed on administrative leave by both employers.

“Right now all I can tell you is the employee is on administrative leave,” Bath Fire Chief Lawrence Renaud said. “We’re still in the middle of an investigation.”

SIGNS OF IMPAIRMENT

According to Deputy Chief Robert Savary, police immediately noticed signs of impairment after responding to the emergency call and interacting with Perry.

The emergency call came from family members concerned about a man who had gone for a swim in the nearby river. He was later located safe and sound and was never in any danger.

“It was a miscommunication between him and his family,” Savary said.

The search for the suspected lost swimmer lasted for about 40 minutes and officers began their investigation of Perry while other emergency personnel looked for the swimmer.

Perry was arrested on suspicion of operating under the influence. Savary said he’s unaware of any prior criminal history with Perry. Once there is suspicion that a first responder is under the influence it’s investigated the same as any traffic stop with the same suspicion, police said.

“There isn’t anything different that happens,” Police Chief Michael Field said. “If there’s suspicion, we treat it the same as any other person.”

‘A VERY SERIOUS SITUATION’

Bath will be conducting its own investigation regarding Perry’s future with the fire department. “He’s been placed on indefinite administrative leave,” City Manager Peter Owen said. “There’s certain entities out of our control in the investigation. We’re in contact with Mid Coast and waiting to see what they’re going to provide for information.”

Owen said a timeline for the city’s investigation was difficult to pin down. There are pieces of the investigation that may take an indefinite amount of time, but he was unable to comment on specifics. Owen hopes for it to be done as soon as possible, noting Perry’s impending court appearance in November is one of the factors in the city’s investigation.

“It’s a very serious situation,” Owen said. “But we have to follow all of the protocols. This person has rights, too, that we have to respect.”

Perry was released on personal recognizance bail and is scheduled to appear in court Nov. 6.

Chris Quattrucci can be contacted at:

[email protected]

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