BOWDOINHAM — The body of a Wisconsin man who fell into the Kennebec River in Bath last month was recovered Friday, Bath police said.

David Dieterich would have been 36 on Friday, his family said.

“We think this was sort of his last gift to us, this being his birthday,” said Kim Krotts, one of his three sisters.

An owner of East of Eden Flower Farm on Brown’s Point Road in Bowdoinham was walking her dog along the shore about 8 a.m. when she discovered Dieterich’s body near shore, said Sgt. Greg Siegel of the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Department.

Siegel said police found Dieterich’s identification on his body.

The body was taken to the state medical examiner’s office for an autopsy, which is standard for an unattended death, Siegel said.

Members of Bowdoinham Fire Department and Topsham Fire and Rescue recovered the body. The Maine State Police major crimes unit was notified.

Bath Police Chief Mike Field said Dieterich is believed to have drowned on April 18.

“We still don’t suspect any foul play so once that is confirmed, the case will be closed,” he said. “We’re happy the family will have some closure.”

Dieterich, of Caledonia, Wisconsin, was with two coworkers around 10 p.m. that night when he stepped onto an unstable dock near the Kennebec Tavern in Bath and fell into the Kennebec river. He’d recently arrived as an employee of the Milwaukee-based Marshall Erecting, a subcontractor for Bath Iron Works. He was staying at the Hampton Inn while on an assignment that was expected to last about six weeks.

Merrymeeting Bay is about six miles upriver from downtown Bath, where Dieterich fell into the river. The bay is at the confluence of six rivers: the Androscoggin, Kennebec, Eastern, Abagadasset, Cathance and Muddy rivers.

Searchers, led by the Maine Marine Patrol, tried to find Dieterich using boats, planes, a drone, divers and side-scanning sonar, a device dragged across the surface of the water as it sends sound waves through the water to find objects.

Dieterich fell in around 10 p.m., and the river was in a flood high tide shortly after midnight. It was 2½ hours of an incoming tide and nearly a full tide cycle before the search team could get divers into the water the next morning at slack low tide.

Julia Baecher, who owns the East of Eden Flower Farm with her husband, David Baecher, said they had been harvesting tulips before she found the body. They picked some flowers to accompany Dieterich’s body.

“It has to be incredibly hard to wonder where your loved one is for a whole month,” she said. “It was pretty tough to find him, but we are happy that he was found. We can’t do much but we can certainly send him home with flowers.”

Krotts said the family wants Baecher to know how grateful they are to her, “and incredibly kind we felt it was that she left flowers with him. It really touched our hearts.”

Krotts said it has been difficult to mourn her brother while he was missing. The family had hired an attorney and started the process of having Dieterich declared dead. It’s a detailed and overwhelming process to deal with the business side of death without a death certificate, she said.

Meanwhile, the family held a celebration of Dieterich’ life at a historic brewery in Milwaukee that drew at least 130 people.

“People said wonderful things about David – how detailed he was, what a great worker he was (and) fellow employee, always worried about safety,” Krotts said. While he was a private person, “Gosh, he had such close friends that loved him.”

Krotts said her mother, Inga, is very grateful her son is coming home. The family hasn’t decided yet if they will hold a funeral, but wants to do something more ceremonial when he arrives back in Wisconsin.

“We have to deal with our everyday lives, but it’s always there,” she said. “It’s never far from our hearts and our minds what happened and there are moments it just comes crashing down on us.”

She didn’t realize just what a heaviness lay on her heart until getting news Friday morning her brother had been found. The family will be celebrating with Dieterich’s nephew Henry today, who shares a birthday with his uncle.

“We continue to be heartbroken and crushed, but we’re incredibly relieved he was found,” Krotts said. “And we do feel in some way that whatever higher power there is, helped guide him to where he was. Especially on his birthday.”

 

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