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Mother dies trying to rescue kids; search for boy, 6, shifts to a recovery operation

A mother, father and their four children were fishing on Deer Island in Newburyport, Massachusetts, when the boy and his sister entered the Merrimack River, fire officials said.

A mother died after rescuing one child and trying to save another who went into Massachusetts' Merrimack River during a family fishing trip, according to authorities who said the search for the missing child has turned into a recovery operation Friday.

The family — a father, mother and their four children — was on Deer Island in Newburyport on Thursday when a 6-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl entered the river, the Newburyport Fire Department said in a release.  

Their mother went in to retrieve them and was assisted by a nearby fishing vessel. She was able to get her daughter on the boat, but “was not able to hoist herself up,” fire officials said.

She went underwater and “was not able to resurface,” according to the release.

Massachusetts State Police, along with other local agencies, responded to the scene at 7:18 p.m., reporting that multiple people were swept into the river. 

A woman died after being pulled from the Merrimack River in Newburyport, Mass., on June 9, 2022.
A woman died after being pulled from the Merrimack River in Newburyport, Mass., on June 9, 2022.NBC10 Boston

Rescue crews located the mother and pulled her from the water but she was unresponsive and not breathing, fire officials said.

CPR was administered on her at the scene. She was taken to Anna Jaques Hospital, where she was later pronounced dead. 

Her name is not being released pending next-of-kin notification. 

Despite finding the mother, officials couldn’t locate her 6-year-old son. He is the only member of the family not accounted for, fire officials said.

The other family members were taken to the hospital, according to authorities. They were said to be doing OK.

The massive search operation for the boy transitioned into a recovery phase just before noon Friday, fire officials told NBC Boston

The search remains active and ongoing for her missing 6-year-old son.
The search remains active and ongoing for her missing 6-year-old son. NBC10 Boston

The boy was believed to be on land when he slipped into the water and was still in the water as of Thursday evening, Newburyport Fire Chief Christopher LeClaire said in a news conference Thursday night.

He noted children entered the water during "typical Merrimack River conditions."

"At the time, it was just the end of high tide. The river can be moving at a quick pace," LeClaire said. "The area is known for fishing and swimming and other recreation. It is a rocky ledge in the river and it is quite heavily used especially at this time of the year." 

He explained that time is dire in the critical search for the child.

“We’re still continuing to search in hopes that we’ll recover the 6-year-old. Again as time goes, it becomes less and less likely and we’ll be in a recovery mode,” LeClaire said Thursday. “But we’ll continue to put our best efforts forward to see if we can locate the child.”