BAR HARBOR — A forgotten cell phone was the impetus for two U.S. Marine Corps helicopters to fly low over Mount Desert Island around 3 p.m. Saturday afternoon.
Six Marines had stopped for lunch at the Thirsty Whale earlier in the day, and one accidentally left his cell phone behind.
A little while after they left, said server Jess Witherell, the phone rang at the restaurant. The caller ID listed the Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport in Trenton.
“How far away are you from the town ball field?” the voice on the phone asked, according to Witherell.
“Well, are you walking or driving?”
“We’re landing a helicopter at the ball field.”
Bar Harbor residents are familiar with LifeFlight, a helicopter ambulance, using the town athletic fields as a landing zone.
“Oh. Well, if you land the helicopter and walk, then it’s about 10 minutes.”
Witherell said the caller asked if anyone from the restaurant might be available to bring a cell phone the group had left behind down to the ball fields to meet them. She said the restaurant was busy, but she would ask dishwasher Bryce Lambert if he could deliver the phone.
“I got chosen to be the person to go,” Lambert said. “I hopped in the car.”
The presence of the helicopters caused some alarm in the neighborhood. The noise set off at least one car alarm, according to reports.
Kate Hall Jordan was at the new Park Street Playground across the street from the athletic field with her son Finn when they heard and saw the helicopters approach.
When LifeFlight plans to land at the field, the organization notifies the Bar Harbor Fire Department ahead of time. Firefighters clear the landing zone to make sure people, pets and vehicles stay a safe distance away. No such precaution was taken in this case.
“That’s not LifeFlight,” Finn Jordan said. “That’s an attack helicopter, like an Apache.” He later identified them as a Bell AH-1W SuperCobra and a Bell UH-1Y Huey.
One landed while the other circled the area. One person came out of the landed chopper. Lambert ran to meet him and handed off the cell phone.
“He pulled the [velcro] patch off of his jacket and handed it to me” to say thanks for the help, Lambert said. Then they quickly took off again.
According to Airman First Class Jessica Blair, a public affairs officer at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, the Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 773 is stationed at the base. Blair was unable to provide details about the crews’ visit to Mount Desert Island by press time.
Airport manager Brad Madeira said Monday that he was unaware of the helicopters’ stop at the airport. This is not unusual, he explained; the airport does not have a control tower where incoming and outgoing flights are logged. Pilots simply have to radio their intentions so as not to interfere with other aviators.
In January of this year, the NBC affiliate in Bangor reported that Marine helicopter units from North Carolina were conducting cold weather training using Brunswick as their base.
Updated Nov. 21 at 10:23 a.m.
Mark Good contributed to this story.