Lowell policeman dies while boating on Merrimack River
Two men died - one of them a decorated Lowell police officer - in two Massachusetts rivers during the weekend, authorities said.
While riding in a motorboat with his brother and a friend on the Merrimack River Saturday evening, Lowell patrol officer Charles Panek told his companions he was going to jump into the water and asked them to turn around and pick him up, according to Tyngsborough police.
He jumped off while the 18-foot vessel was traveling about 20 miles per hour, police said. When the boat circled back seconds later, he did not surface.
Tyngsborough police located the body of the 30-year-old officer in the river late Saturday night, about three hours after they were alerted.
Yesterday in Attleboro, another man apparently drowned in the Ten Mile River near a wooded walking trail, officials said.
Detective Sergeant Arthur Brillon, an Attleboro police spokesman, said the victim, who was discovered about 10:40 a.m. by a woman walking nearby, was a 49-year-old Attleboro man; his name was withheld until his family was notified.
“Right now there’s nothing suspicious,’’ Brillon said in a brief telephone interview.
According to Tyngsborough police Lieutenant Richard Howe, police received a call about 8:43 p.m. that a man had jumped from a boat into the Merrimack River and had failed to surface, Rescuers searched the river until Panek was found in about 14 feet of water, approximately 300 feet offshore, north of a boat ramp at 76 Frost Road, Howe said.
Panek was pronounced dead at the scene, Howe said. The state medical examiner’s office is investigating the cause of death.
According to the Lowell Police Department and family members, Panek was a decorated police officer and former Marine who had served in the Iraq War.
He also served in the Rhode Island Army National Guard, and was scheduled to be deployed soon to Afghanistan, police said.
“Our thoughts, prayers, and deepest sympathies go out to the family of Officer Panek,’’ said Lowell police Superintendent Kenneth Lavallee. “[He] will be sadly missed by all members of the Lowell Police Department and the citizens within our community.’’
Panek’s mother, Sandra Panek of Pelham, N.H., said her son was very social and athletic, and loved his work in the military and law enforcement.
“He just loved life,’’ said the officer’s mother. “He was the type of person that did more in 30 years than most did in 90.’’
Panek, of Dracut, had earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in criminal justice from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell and had been on the police force since 2006, his mother said. He was honored with the state’s second-highest award for police officers after a 2008 incident when he took down an armed man, without injury to the gunman or himself, she said.
The search for Panek involved crews from the Tyngsborough, Hudson, Lowell, and Nashua fire departments, as well as police dive teams from Lowell, Nashua, and the Massachusetts State Police, Howe said.
Stewart Bishop can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.