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Well-known Portland man drowns while fishing on East Outlet of Moosehead Lake – Portland Press Herald

Maine game wardens have recovered the body of a well-known Portland man who they said drowned Saturday afternoon while fishing on the East Outlet of Moosehead Lake.

In a news release Sunday evening, the Maine Warden Service identified the victim as 40-year-old  Truc Huynh. Huynh (pronounced win), was a Vietnamese immigrant, 2005 graduate of Bowdoin College and 2001 graduate of Portland High School.

Huynh was named a George Mitchell Institute scholar after graduation from high school. In a 2019 interview with the Portland Press Herald, he said the institute’s financial and other aid allowed him to graduate from Bowdoin with a degree in government and legal studies in 2005. After college, Huynh worked at Unum as a benefits consultant for more than a decade. He was also involved in the operation of his family’s Westbrook restaurant – Phoever Maine Vietnamese Bar & Grill.

Truc Huynh Portland Public Schools Promise webpage

The Portland Public Schools profiled Huynh in 2017 on its Promise website, which is devoted to featuring some of the school district’s success stories. The profile says that Huynh’s family emigrated from Vietnam to Maine in 1989. Huynh was one of six children in his family to graduate from Portland Public Schools while his mother worked as a housekeeper and his father as a line worker for Barber Foods in Portland.

He attended Reiche Community School and King Middle School and gave credit to the diversity found within the Portland school system for his success in life.

“It (Portland schools) exposes you to different areas and it teaches you to listen to different perspectives from different people,” Truc told Tess Nacelewicz, the spokesperson for Public Public Schools who wrote the profile about him. “That is really one of the skill sets that wasn’t taught in the classroom, but it was kind of a byproduct of the Portland Public Public Schools. It has helped prepare me for the real world now, where my job is really to meet with all kinds of different employer groups.”

Huynh was grateful for the opportunities he was given in the United States, and sought to give back to his community. He became a U.S. citizen in 2005.

In 2019, Huynh and a friend, Nate Cutting, departed on a 400-mile bicycle trek across Maine to raise funds for five nonprofits that helped his family come to Maine – the Mitchell Institute, Susan L. Curtis Foundation, Greater Immigrant Welcome Center, Community Bicycle Center and Jobs for Maine graduates. At the time of the trek, Huynh said he received $16,000 from business partners, friends and family.

Organizing “Trucking Across Maine” started while Huynh and Cutting were participating in the 2018 Trek Across Maine – a 100-mile bike ride fundraiser for the American Lung Association. Cutting said the two had a deep conversation about the differences between northern and southern Maine, and misperceptions each region has of the other, particularly around discussions of race and immigration. He hoped meeting locals during the course of his trip would dispel misconceptions about immigrants.

“I thought, what a good way to kind of highlight our state to say, here’s an immigrant that has benefited from many people, including the government, when he and his family first came here, and also private citizens as well,” said Huynh. “And they have made it and are now paying it forward by giving back to the community that he grew up in, in the state that he grew up in.”

Huynh’s friends expressed deep regret on social media for the loss of an individual who changed lives and people’s perspectives.

“It’s hard to imagine a world without your big smile and generous heart,” wrote Colleen Quint. “You made such a positive impact on the people you knew and on the world around you. Saying you will be missed utterly fails to capture the heartbreak we feel … but you will be missed and missed deeply.”

“T, you were the stuff legends were made of. My heart is shattered today,” wrote Nicole Axelson.

“Truc, you imparted so many inspiring stories about your family, and your energy and warmth were incredible. You were a model for all of us,” Michelle Dietz said.

Maine game wardens said that Huynh was fishing with a friend Saturday morning on the East Outlet, which flows out of Moosehead Lake and into the Kennebec River. The friends were in a fishing raft around noon when they decided to move to a new location on the river, according to Mark Latti, a spokesman for the Maine Warden Service.

Latti said the friends were traveling down the river in the raft when they encountered whitewater rapids. The rapids overturned their boat, throwing both men into the water. Huynh was not wearing a life jacket and was swept under by the current, Latti said. Huynh never resurfaced, but his friend, who was wearing a life jacket, made it to shore and called for help.

Wardens and several other people who witnessed the incident searched the shoreline, but were unable to locate Huynh.

Latti said the Maine Warden Service launched an airplane to fly over the river. Game Warden Pilot Chris Hilton  spotted Huynh’s body around 4 p.m. Saturday along a stretch of the river located in Sapling Township. Wardens launched a boat and recovered the body at 4:20 p.m.

The East Outlet of the Kennebec River, which is about 3.5 miles long, is a popular fly fishing spot particularly because it is loaded with landlocked salmon and brook trout, according to Maine River Guides, which offers fishing excursions on the river.

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