Woman mistakes boat launch for road, drives car into Belfast Harbor

Posted:  Thursday, October 23, 2014 - 5:30pm

Story Location:
Public Landing
Belfast  Maine
United States

BELFAST — A Searsport woman accidentally drove her car into Belfast Harbor Thursday morning, Oct. 23, after apparently mistaking the boat launch at the city’s public landing for a continuation of Lower Main Street. 

Belfast Harbormaster Katherine Pickering was one of several witnesses who watched as the white sedan drove past her office and straight into the water. It was close to high tide and the water covered most of the boat ramp. 

The driver, Eva Lenfest, 92, was alone in the vehicle. Pickering said the car initially floated on the surface of the water upon entry.

Bryden Burlenson, a worker from Belmont Boat Works, was able to get a dinghy and reach the car, which had drifted from the center of the launch toward a dock on the south side, Pickering said. By then, Pickering had called Asst. Harbormaster Howard Whitcomb, who came to help. 

“Bryden was in the boat,” Whitcomb said. “He had actually got the door open and got her unhooked, and he was trying to get her out but the car was going down. So I jumped in the boat and we got hold of her and pulled her out.”

“They pulled her out of the car, like, just a split second before it went under,” Pickering said. “She is a very lucky woman. Very, very lucky.”

Belfast Police Officer Wendall Ward said Lenfest was “cold and a little disoriented” but not seriously injured. She was taken to Waldo County General Hospital.

The car came to rest about 75 feet from the water’s edge and was fully submerged. As of 11 a.m., it did not appear to be leaking fluids. U.S. Coast Guard and state Department of Environmental Protection officials came to the site shortly after and removed the car. whitcomb said there was bubbling on the surface of the water that might have indicated a leak.

Ward visited Lenfest in the hospital later and said that she was still shaken up but seemed to be OK. She confirmed to him that she believed she was following the road until she was in the water. Ward said the height of the tide and low visibility caused by rain created conditions that could have mislead anyone unfamiliar with the area.

Ethan Andrews can be reached at news@penbaypilot.com