Body found in Merrimack River identified as Lowell police officer

While cruising on a motor boat on the Merrimack River Saturday evening, Lowell patrol officer Charles Panek told his companions he was going to dive 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 at about 20 miles per hour, police said. But when the boat circled back seconds later, he did not surface.

Tyngsborough police pulled the body of the 30-year-old officer from the river late Saturday night.

At about 8:43 p.m., police received a 911 call that a man had jumped from a boat into the Merrimack River and had failed to surface, Tyngsborough police Lieutenant Richard Howe said in a statement. Rescuers searched the river for around three hours until he was found in about 14 feet of water, approximately 300 feet offshore, north of a boat ramp at 76 Frost Road, Howe said.

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Howe identified him as Panek this morning.

Panek was pronounced dead at the scene.

The search involved crews from the Tyngsborough, Hudson, Lowell and Nashua, N.H., fire departments as well as police dive teams from Lowell, Nashua and the Massachusetts State Police, Howe said. A State Police helicopter also assisted with the search, according to David Procopio, a State Police spokesman.

The incident is being investigated by Tyngsborough police and State Police.