ELLSWORTH, Maine — A local man and woman turned up safe and sound on shore Tuesday afternoon after they ended up in the water while canoeing in Leonard Lake, according to officials.
After searching for the duo for about four hours, the Maine Warden Service learned that Wayde Awalt, 23, and Deanna Lindsey, 28, had managed to swim quickly to shore and were given a ride by a passing motorist.
Their overturned canoe was found in the river off Shore Road at about 12:30 p.m., and members of the Maine Warden Service as well as the Ellsworth and Orland fire departments and Ellsworth police searched for about four hours before they learned local resident Nicholas Sawyer had picked up two “soaking wet” people in his truck earlier in the day by the side of Shore Road, the warden service said.
Searchers were sure people had been in the swamped canoe because it contained two life jackets and food items, and paddles, gloves and a fishing pole were found nearby.
“No call was made to authorities of the incident until late this afternoon when a family friend of the two saw the story on the news,” Cpl. John MacDonald of the warden service wrote in a statement released Tuesday evening. “Game wardens and police interviewed both Awalt and Lindsey a short time ago and confirmed the information.”
Sawyer came across the couple near the city’s pump station on Shore Road and drove them to their car off Christian Ridge Road on the western side of Leonard Lake, Lt. Dan Scott of the warden service said around 5:30 p.m.
Before searchers learned the couple were OK, they were operating in a recovery effort mode because of the weather conditions. The air temperature was about 28 degrees Fahrenheit at 5 p.m. but felt like 20 degrees with the wind chill, according to the National Weather Service. Scott estimated the water temperature in the river to be in the low 30s.
“They’re very lucky we’re not doing a double recovery,” Scott said, referring to the likelihood that Awalt and Lindsey would have drowned if they had been in the water without life jackets for more than a couple of minutes.
Boaters always should wear life jackets, he said, and if they become separated from their watercraft, they should immediately contact officials to let them know they are OK.
“If you happen to flip your canoe or it breaks free or is out floating around, call somebody and let them know so we don’t deploy four game wardens, two police officers, an airplane and two news crews to find you,” Scott said.