Body of 6-Year-Old Boy Found in Mass. River After Mom Died Trying to Save Him During Family Trip

·4 min read
Newburyport and Mutual Aid Partners Continue Water Search Throughout Night Into Morning for Missing 6-Year-Old Boy
Newburyport and Mutual Aid Partners Continue Water Search Throughout Night Into Morning for Missing 6-Year-Old Boy

Courtesy Newburyport Firefighter Michael Kent

Massachusetts officials say the body of a 6-year-old boy who went missing while fishing with his family in the Merrimack River on Thursday has been found.

On Sunday, the Massachusetts State Police said in a statement that a "body believed to be the missing 6-year-old boy" — identified by police as Mas DeChhat — was "located by a kayaker in the Merrimack River this morning."

The Newburyport Fire Department, which also confirmed the recovery in a statement released Sunday afternoon, said that Mas "had been missing since he entered the water during his family's recreational visit to Deer Island on Thursday, June 12."

"His mother, Boua DeChhat, 29, valiantly tried to save him and lost her life in doing so," they wrote. Prior to her death, Boua was able to save her 7-year-old daughter, who also attempted to help her brother.

According to NBC Boston, the boy's body was found by Darin Kelsey, who told the outlet he "was out for a 30-minute kayak" when he came across the boy's body in the water, which is about a half mile downstream from Deer Island.

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"I went out and looked along the shores and looked under docks and I was on my way back in and saw something floating kind of in my path," explained Kelsey, who lives along the Merrimack River. "I was hoping it was a stick or a log, and as I got closer I realized it was the boy. He kind of floated right by me."

Newburyport and Mutual Aid Partners Continue Water Search Throughout Night Into Morning for Missing 6-Year-Old Boy
Newburyport and Mutual Aid Partners Continue Water Search Throughout Night Into Morning for Missing 6-Year-Old Boy

Courtesy Newburyport Firefighter Michael Kent

Tragedy struck on Thursday evening while the family of six from Lowell, Mass., was visiting Deer Island, "a recreational area accessible by road that juts into the Merrimack River in Amesbury, near the Newburyport line," state police said in a previous statement.

Around 7 p.m., Boua's 31-year-old husband "returned to their car in the island's small parking lot to retrieve some gear," police said. Around the same time, Mas, who was on land at the water's edge, reached for a stick in the water, fell in and then "began to be pulled away by the swift current."

Police say his sister fell into the water while trying to grab him.

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Boua, who "was not known to swim," entered the water to save them but also became swept up in the current, police said.

After returning back from the car, the father entered the water in hopes of saving his three family members, but "was not a swimmer" and "began to struggle" in the water himself, according to police. He eventually exited the water and was later treated at Seabrook Hospital for exposure and hypothermia.

Police say Boua and her daughter were carried west "under the Whittier Bridge" in Amesbury before a fishing boat operator allegedly saw the pair and pulled him onto the vessel. The NFD previously said Boua was "unresponsive" when she was pulled onto the boat.

At the time Bou and her daughter were pulled from the water, "Mas DeChhat was not observed in the water," state police said in Saturday's statement.

Newburyport and Mutual Aid Partners Continue Water Search Throughout Night Into Morning for Missing 6-Year-Old Boy
Newburyport and Mutual Aid Partners Continue Water Search Throughout Night Into Morning for Missing 6-Year-Old Boy

Courtesy Newburyport Firefighter Michael Kent

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Officials searched for the missing boy for days, beginning "immediately" after officials were alerted to the incident. The search transitioned into a recovery mission on Friday.

Kelsey, who has four children of his own, told NBC Boston he is glad to have helped bring closure to the boy's family.

"I know the father was pleading with people to help him found his boy, just so he could have closure and the fact that I could help them — that's what's going to carry me through," he said.

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The body found over the weekend has been turned over to the office of the State's Chief Medical Examiner for identification, according to the Newburyport Fire Department. An exact cause of death remains unknown.

"The joint search teams and first responders together send their deepest sympathies and condolences to the DeChhat family," the fire department said in Sunday's statement.