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Fire chief: Missing N.H. swimmer possibly attempted polar plunge

The unidentified swimmer who went missing yesterday in Bristol is a 32-year-old Northfield man who a rescue official said might have been taking part in a dangerous new trend in which young people plunge into frigid water and then post videos of their exploits on social media.

Michael Hoyt said this afternoon that his son, Aaron Hoyt, is the man whose body Fish and Game officials are now searching for along the banks of the Smith River, near Profile Falls. Emergency officials called off an initial rescue effort last night around 9 p.m., according to Bristol fire Chief Steve Yannuzzi.

He said emergency officials met around 7 a.m. today, at which point the search effort was switched from rescue to recovery.

Yannuzzi, who declined to identify the victim, said a woman at the scene reported the disappearance shortly before 8 p.m. She told officials that she, the man and a possibly a third person were taking part in the “polar plunge,” which has become a growing concern among education officials across the state in recent days. The woman told officials that the man had been missing for approximately 30 minutes before she called 911.

Officials with the Bristol police and the state Fish and Game would not confirm the name of the missing man.

Aaron Hoyt, a driver who has delivered papers for the Monitor since 2012, failed to report for a scheduled delivery early this morning. Michael Hoyt said Aaron has been living with him, but he declined to comment further. Aaron Hoyt previously lived in Concord.

He is a graduate of Winnisquam Regional High School and became engaged in November to a local woman named Alison Gould, according to his Facebook page. Gould did not immediately return requests for comment this afternoon, but around 6 p.m. yesterday she posted on the site: “To the waterfall!”

The falls, located just west of the intersection of the Smith and Pemigewasset rivers, are closed to swimmers after sunset – which was a little after 7 p.m. last night. Yannuzzi said it is unusual for people to be swimming there this early in the spring, as water temperatures are extremely low. Conditions are especially dangerous, he said, given rushing currents – a byproduct of the snow melt.

“The river is moving pretty fast,” Yannuzzi said.

Local fire and school officials have raised alarm recently about the plunge trend, warning that exposure to icy water can result in severe cramping, hypothermia, disorientation and respiratory distress.

(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, jblackman@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)

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