An overnight search for a 17-year-old boy in the Merrimack River was called off Wednesday morning when Haverhill police determined it was a hoax, authorities said.
Police received a report of a 13-year-old boy stranded on a boat on the river about 7:45 p.m. Tuesday, Haverhill police said in a statement. When police found the boy, he told them that a 17-year-old had stolen the boat and picked him up behind the Moody Pre-School, at 59 Margin St., in Haverhill. The 13-year-old told police that the two piloted the boat west toward the Interstate 495 bridge, and the 17-year-old fell into the water and never resurfaced.
Haverhill firefighters, police, State Police, Methuen police, and the Haverhill harbormaster began a three-hour search. At 11 p.m. Tuesday, the search was called off, set to resume at first light Wednesday morning.
Through an interview Tuesday night with the 13-year-old, police determined that he and another juvenile stole the boat and only made their way a few hundred yards up the river before the boat lost power. One boy swam to shore, while the other, the 13-year-old, remained on the boat until rescuers arrived.
“We were concerned about his story because it changed so much,” Methuen Police Chief Joe Solomon said.
Haverhill Police Lieutenant Robert Pistone said the other boy involved in the hoax was “about the same age” as the 13-year-old, not 17.
Haverhill police are “confident that all parties are accounted for,” police said in the statement. The investigation is ongoing, and the teens will likely be charged, police said.