KINGSTON — Some local Scouts on a camping trip are being hailed as heroes after putting their skills to work to rescue two brothers whose canoes capsized in a lake in northern Maine earlier this week.
Michael Fiori, 67, credits the Scouts from Venture Crew 345 of Kingston with saving him and his 70-year-old brother, Larry, after their frightening ordeal.
“I don’t think we would have made it. The Scouts did miraculous work. Those Scouts are heroes,” he said.
The Scouts are part of a crew chartered by the Lone Tree Spirit Foundation Inc., which is connected to the 140-acre Scout camp in Kingston known as the Lone Tree Scout Reservation owned by the Spirit of Adventure Council of Massachusetts.
The Scouts are on a week-long camping trip in Maine, but found themselves in a rescue mission Monday night after hearing cries for help.
Michael Fiori of Brunswick, Maine, and his brother Larry Fiori of Kennebunk, Maine, bumped into the Scouts at their camp site earlier in the day, but never realized they would later be calling on them for help.
The brothers and a dog named Cooper were out in their tandem canoes, which were bolted together in the center, when trouble began. They were canoeing on Umsaskis Lake, which is on the Allagash River in Aroostook County, around 6:15 p.m. when they believe a seam opened up on the canoes and one began to fill with water. They had little time to react as both canoes flipped over and threw the men into the chilly water.
“It was instant,” Michael said.
The Fioris weren’t wearing their life vests, but they managed to grab them and put them on. Cooper was wearing a life vest.
The canoes capsized about a mile from where the Scouts were camping. Michael said they began swimming in their direction, but he and his brother became separated.
With his legs and hands numb, Michael made it to shore around 8:20 p.m. and began blowing a whistle and screaming for help from the Scouts in the distance.
“I could see a small smoke puff over the trees,” he said.
Michael said the Scouts eventually discovered him and came to help him back to their camp.
“I don’t think I could have ever made it,” he said.
The Scouts used hot rocks from a fire wrapped in towels to warm his feet and provided blankets while the Scouts’ crew adviser, Harry Taylor, sent other Scouts with a flashlight in a canoe to search for Larry.
They found him with his vest wrapped around him holding a gas can while floating in the water about 250 feet from shore.
Larry had been in the water for more than three hours.
“He had cramped up pretty bad by then and was delirious,” Michael said.
Park Ranger Steve Day soon arrived and assisted as Larry was brought to safety.
He was hospitalized after suffering from hypothermia and other related health issues, but is expected to recover.
Cooper also made it out OK.
Matthew LaRoche, superintendent of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, commended the Scouts for their efforts.
“At considerable risk to themselves, they went out in the dark of night searching for a missing person. They found Mr. Fiori near exhaustion holding on to a gas can to keep himself afloat. They undoubtedly saved that man’s life. They then assisted Allagash Ranger Day in getting Mr. Fiori into his canoe and to the ranger station — an experience I’m sure they will remember their entire lives,” he said.