search and rescue

Body of Missing Boy Found in River Days After Fishing Trip That Killed His Mom

Boua DeChhat, 29 of Lowell, drowned after swimming into the rapid current of the Merrimack River Thursday to try to save her 7-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son, Mas

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The body of 6-year-old Mas DeChhat, who drowned in the Merrimack River while on a family fishing trip, was found Sunday in Newburyport, Massachusetts, authorities confirmed.

Mas' body found by a kayaker in the river near Newburyport's Pipers Quarry, authorities said.

"It is with a great sadness we must report the body of the young boy has been recovered. The family has been notified and we pray this gives the family some closure," Amesbury police, which were part of the search, said in a statement.

On Deer Island, a makeshift memorial for the DeChhat family had sprung up by Sunday. People were leaving flowers and lighting candles.

Mas first entered the river about 7 p.m. Thursday during a family fishing trip on Deer Island. His mother, Boua DeChhat, and 7-year-old sister got into the water to try and save him, but they were carried away by the current, and Boua, 29, died before the pair could be pulled out, authorities have said. The girl survived.

The rescue operation had shifted to one focused on recovery Friday.

On Deer Island, a makeshift memorial for the DeChhat family had sprung up by Sunday. People were leaving flowers and lighting candles.

Authorities continue to search the Merrimack River in Newburyport on Friday for a missing 6-year-old boy.

The initial fishing incident near Whittier Bridge

The six members of the DeChhat family, from Lowell, at the center of the tragic accident had been fishing and swimming at Deer Island, a recreational area in the Merrimack River between Amesbury and Newburyport and near the Whittier Bridge, which carries Interstate 95 over the river, officials said. Police initially said they were involved in a boating accident but that turned out to be untrue.

The family's father, Boua's 31-year-old husband, went to their car around 7 p.m. to get something, which is when Mas fell into the water while reaching for something in it and was swept away by the current, officials said.

Boua, who was not known to swim, and her 7-year-old daughter entered the river to help save him but were caught in the strong current as well, according to Massachusetts State Police. The father, returning from the car, saw Boua and daughter in the water and jumped in after them, but couldn't reach them and had trouble as well; he was able to get back to shore.

The current carried Boua and her daughter inland, under the Whittier Bridge, where a person in a boat saw them struggling and was able to pull them out, officials said. But the woman had trouble hoisting herself into the boat and went under the water.

Newburyport fire officials say the incident involves a family of six that was fishing on Deer Island.

Boua and her mother were both taken to Anna Jacques Hospital in Newburyport; the girl was treated and released but Boua, whom rescuers found unresponsive and not breathing, was pronounced dead.

The search for the missing boy

The search had focused on the part of the river where Boua and her daughter were pulled from the water, according to state police. That turned out not to be where Mas' body was found; Pipers Quarry, where Mas' body was found, is east of Deer Island, while his mother and sister were west of the island.

Deer Island is about five miles from the mouth of the Merrimack River.

Newburyport Fire Chief Christopher LeClaire gives the latest update on the fishing incident that left a woman dead and her 6-year-old son missing in the Merrimack River.

The massive effort to find Mas, begun Thursday night, continued all day Friday, even after the focus of the mission shifted to recovering his body. The Coast Guard suspended its search in the afternoon.

“It is always a difficult decision to suspend a search and rescue case, and even more painful when children are involved,” said Capt. Kailie Benson, Coast Guard Sector Boston commander. “Considering the extensive search efforts by the Coast Guard and the numerous state and local agencies, along with on scene conditions, I have made the decision to suspend the search for the missing 6-year-old boy."

"Our prayers are with the boy and mother’s family and friends during this time,” Benson added.

Massachusetts State Police resumed their search Saturday after spending 10 hours looking for the boy on Friday.

The search included the Coast Guard, harbormasters, state police, local police and fire departments from around the region and state environmental police. The response included 10 Massachusetts State Police divers, and helicopters were seen searching the area.

Newburyport Fire Chief Christopher LeClaire had said the search efforts would continue until about noon Friday before officials reevaluate them and decide whether to switch from a rescue to a recovery.

"We're continuing to search," he said Friday morning. "As time goes by, the chances of recovery diminish. We believe we'll be in recovery mode shortly."

He said the strong current in the river presented challenges in the search effort.

A bridge to Deer Island in the Merrimack River where rescuers were searching for a boy who went missing while fishing and swimming with his family Thursday, June 9, 2022.

LeClaire on Thursday night described the conditions on Deer Island at the time Mas went missing and Boua and her daughter went into the water after him as typical, noting the river's quick pace and rocky ledge.

"It is quite heavily used this time of year. People are known to fish along the edge along Deer Island," he said.

Countless first responder vehicles could be seen parked along a bridge Thursday night, while several boats were in the water, and state police and Coast Guard helicopters were flying overhead.

The search for the 6-year-old boy is ongoing.

NBC10 Boston talked with one woman who lives nearby and she said her husband also got into his kayak Thursday evening to help look for the child after he realized what was going on.

"My husband was out here with the dog, and I was like, what's taking so long? And then all of a sudden he's screaming at me, and he's talking about a woman and CPR," said Sue Bajko. "I came out and two fishermen came on our dock here in their boat and they pulled the woman and her daughter out of the boat and did CPR."

Len Johnson, a life-long Amesbury resident who lives along the river said, "Heaven help you if you do fall in the river, the current just can take you away in a flash."

NBC/The Associated Press
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