SKOWHEGAN — Police are looking for the driver of a silver 2006 Dodge caravan who reportedly clambered down a steep embankment into the Kennebec River in Skowhegan early Sunday, fleeing police after crashing a vehicle into a chain link fence near the Old Mill Pub.

Skowhegan Fire Department crews searched the river after the initial call, then returned to the river in two boats at 2 p.m. Sunday.

Skowhegan Police Chief David Bucknam said just before 3 p.m. that police had made contact with the man’s father and the river search was called off.

Bucknam said officers Kelly Hooper, Jacob Boudreau and Alex Burns responded to a report of a fight behind the line of businesses on Water Street that include The Bankery and Northern Mattress and Furniture about 12:40 a.m. Sunday. Somerset County sheriff’s deputies and Skowhegan fire units also responded, according to the radio dispatch log.

The driver tried to leave in the vehicle and hit the chain link fence, Bucknam said.

“He ran from the vehicle,” Bucknam said. “Jumped in the river. We didn’t catch him. The operator fled the vehicle on foot with Skowhegan officer Alex Burns pursuing him. The operator jumped off the embankment towards the Kennebec River.”

The river bank drops off sharply from the parking lot to the rapids of the river, just below the spillway of the hydro dam.

“A search of the area on foot and Skowhegan Fire Department in a boat were unable to locate the subject,” he said. “He was seen swimming down the river towards the Notre Dame church.”

Capt. Rick Caldwell of the Skowhegan Fire Department said crews sent out a boat with searchlights after the initial reports.

“We went down and helped the PD and other law enforcement officers search the river, the river line, with lights and thermal cameras,” Caldwell said. “Then we put our boat in, but it was starting to get foggy at that time. We made our way up to just before the Eddy, but low water made it hard for us to get up into the Eddy. Then the fog moved in so much that we couldn’t even see so we returned back to the boat landing and decided to all it off.”

Bucknam said officers made contact with the registered owner of the vehicle and are looking to speak with a 22-year-old Solon man. He said it appears that the man survived the plunge and the swim.

“The investigation is ongoing as officers collect statements and conduct interviews,” Bucknam said. “He hid out until the coast was clear, I suspect.”


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