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Woman dies, 6-year-old boy missing while fishing on Merrimack River in Amesbury

Water churning the brown water in the Merrimack River.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

A woman died and her 6-year-old son was missing in the Merrimack River Thursday evening after a family fishing trip suddenly turned tragic, according to law enforcement officials.

A massive search for the boy was conducted by air and in the river for hours Thursday night by the Coast Guard, State Police, and scores of local police and fire departments in the Merrimack Valley.

The woman, her husband, and their four children were fishing on Deer Island shortly after 7 p.m., when two of the children entered the water, Newburyport police and fire said in a statement late Thursday night.

The mother went into the water to rescue the two children, one of whom is a 7-year-old girl, the statement said. A nearby fishing vessel approached and the mother was able to bring her daughter onto the boat.


She wasn’t able to hoist herself up and went underwater and was not able to resurface, the statement said. Rescue crews were able to get the woman out of the water, but she was unresponsive and not breathing.

Crews performed CPR at the scene and she was taken to Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport, where she later died, the statement said. Crews were still searching for the boy, who was the only member of the family not accounted for, officials said shortly before midnight.

David Procopio, a spokesman for Massachusetts State Police, said a man went into the water “to rescue his family,” he said. The girl required medical treatment for undisclosed injuries.

The State Police Marine Unit, dive team, and helicopters responded to the scene near the Whittier Bridge, near Newburyport. The Coast Guard dispatched helicopters and boats to the scene.

Multiple fire and police departments from surrounding towns in the Merrimack Valley also responded, Amesbury Fire Chief Kenneth E. Berkenbush said in a statement.


No further information was available late Thursday night.

Adam Sennott can be reached at