ORONO, Maine — Maine Maritime Academy student David Breunig was at a party on Crosby Street last Friday, but as it neared midnight he decided to head over to the Mill Street bars, according to Orono police Chief Josh Ewing.
“He was trying to meet up with his buddies,” the police chief said. “He was trying to get from Point A to Point B.”
The shortest route from Crosby Street to Mill Street is by crossing a train trestle over the now-raging Stillwater River. Breunig, 21, of Westbrook left the party at around 11:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 26, and his phone last pinged a local cellphone tower at 12:05 a.m. Feb. 27, officials have said.
A woman told police she saw a man matching Breunig’s description around that time near the junction of North Main Avenue and Hillside Road, “walking toward the tracks,” Ewing said.
“She’s pretty confident, with our description, it’s the same person,” the police chief said. “She’s pretty confident she was seeing David.”
Lt. Dan Scott of the Maine Warden Service said Tuesday that the lack of physical evidence in the two days of ground searches since Breunig went missing led investigators to the water. He described the search as a recovery effort.
The Stillwater River joins the Penobscot River just east of the train trestle. Both rivers have very fast-moving waters because of spring runoffs, Scott said.
Scott said police dogs indicated Monday that “there could be somebody in the water” near the southern end of Ayers Island. On Tuesday, 10 divers went into the water to look for the missing man with no success.
Breunig’s family, who has been briefed several times per day about the search that started Saturday, and have since gone home, Ewing said.
The search for Breunig continued Thursday but has been scaled back to aircraft flying over the Penobscot River scanning for evidence.
“We hope another clue comes up,” Ewing said. “We’re just waiting now.”
The 60 or so law enforcement and other volunteer search teams that looked for Breunig want closure for the family and for themselves, the Orono police chief said.
“They want to know what happened to their son, and that is something we want to know too,” Ewing said. “It’s been a difficult case.”