April 4, 2021

MDIFW NEWS: Maine Warden Service Rescues Stranded Family, Hypothermic Hiker in Two Separate Rescues

Editor's Note - The attached photo is of Christopher Lebel, wrapped in a sleeping bag, walking out with assistance through the woods to a waiting ATV.

AUGUSTA, Maine With weather still very much like winter on Maines mountains, the Maine Warden Service was called on Saturday night to rescue multiple people who were unprepared to hike in winter conditions. The Maine Warden Service and Emergency Service Personnel rescued one stranded family on Tumbledown Mountain in Weld, and one severely hypothermic Appalachian Trail hiker in Township E in two separate rescues last night.

Maine Game Wardens and Emergency Service Personnel rescued a hiker on the Appalachian trail in Township E last night who likely would not have survived the night after falling into the water.

Christopher J. Lebel, Age 38, of Phippsburg was hiking south with his dog on the Appalachian Trail in Letter E township yesterday when approximately four miles into his trip, he fell into the water.

Lebel changed his clothes but was unable to get warm and became severely hypothermic with temperatures below freezing, winds blowing, and ice and snow on the ground. Lebel was able to text a friend that he needed help, who in turn contacted 911 at approximately 9:42 Saturday night. Game Wardens and rescuers were able to take an ATV to get closer, then hiked through the woods to reach Lebel.

Game Wardens found Lebel unable to walk when they reached him. Rescuers started a fire, provided hot liquids and food to Lebel, and were able to re-warm him to the point that he was able to walk out of the woods to the waiting ATV at approximately 4:30 a.m. this morning.

"Lebel did not have appropriate clothing or hiking gear for this time of year," said Maine Game Warden Sergeant Scott Thrasher. Had Lebel been unable to send a text for help, it is unlikely he would have survived the night in the woods.

The Maine Warden Service was assisted in the rescue by the Rangeley Fire Department, US Border Patrol, and North Star EMS. Lebel was not transported to a hospital.

In Weld on Tumbledown Mountain, the Maine Warden Service rescued a family of five last night after they had become stranded on the top of tumbledown mountain.

The family, Don Lantona (age 53), wife Meena Latona (52), Connor Latona (18), Meaghan Latona (20), and Ashley Latona (22), all from Freehold, New Jersey, had climbed to top of Tumbledown Mountain on Saturday. Due to the snow and ice at the Summit, they could not find the trail head to descend back down the mountain.

With the sun going down, improper clothing, and not enough food, water or lighting to attempt to climb down the mountain, they called 911 at 6:46 p.m.. Game wardens and first responders hiked up the mountain, where it was windy with temperatures in the low 30s. Upon reaching the summit, game wardens found the family huddled together for warmth. After starting a fire and warming several members of the family, rescuers and the family hiked back down the mountain, getting to the base of the mountain at approximately midnight.

This family was not prepared for the conditions they experienced on this hike. There still is ice snow, and sub-freezing temperatures on the trails of many Maine mountains, said Maine Game Warden Sergeant Scott Thrasher. These conditions can be extremely dangerouse for those who are unprepared.

The Maine Warden Service was assisted by the Weld Fire Department and Franklin Search and Rescue.