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59-year-old man drowns in Merrimack River

  • Master Police Officer Eric Crane, right, and bystanders, inlcuding Gary "Crabby" LaCroix (left), look on as the Concord Fire Department searches for John and Ayla Mauk in the Merrimack River in Concord on Thursday, July 4, 2013. John Mauk, of Concord, jumped into the Merrimack River to rescue his daughter, Ayla, after she failed to reach shore while riding an inflatable tube on the river. According to witnesses, two unidentified people helped John and Ayla Mauk to shore. <br/><br/>TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff

    Master Police Officer Eric Crane, right, and bystanders, inlcuding Gary "Crabby" LaCroix (left), look on as the Concord Fire Department searches for John and Ayla Mauk in the Merrimack River in Concord on Thursday, July 4, 2013. John Mauk, of Concord, jumped into the Merrimack River to rescue his daughter, Ayla, after she failed to reach shore while riding an inflatable tube on the river. According to witnesses, two unidentified people helped John and Ayla Mauk to shore.

    TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff

  • A kayaker passes by as emergency personnel search for the body of Gary LaCroix, who went missing in the Merrimack River on Friday afternoon, July 5, 2013. Friends say that he went into the water to retrieve a bag of ice that was dropped by rafters when he disappeared from view. <br/><br/>TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff

    A kayaker passes by as emergency personnel search for the body of Gary LaCroix, who went missing in the Merrimack River on Friday afternoon, July 5, 2013. Friends say that he went into the water to retrieve a bag of ice that was dropped by rafters when he disappeared from view.

    TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff

  • Emergency personnel search for the body of Gary LaCroix, who went missing in the Merrimack River on Friday afternoon, July 5, 2013. Friends say that he went into the water to retrieve a bag of ice that was dropped by rafters when he disappeared from view. <br/><br/>TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff

    Emergency personnel search for the body of Gary LaCroix, who went missing in the Merrimack River on Friday afternoon, July 5, 2013. Friends say that he went into the water to retrieve a bag of ice that was dropped by rafters when he disappeared from view.

    TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff

  • Emergency personnel search for the body of Gary LaCroix, who went missing in the Merrimack River on Friday afternoon, July 5, 2013. Friends say that he went into the water to retrieve a bag of ice that was dropped by rafters when he disappeared from view.  <br/><br/>TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff

    Emergency personnel search for the body of Gary LaCroix, who went missing in the Merrimack River on Friday afternoon, July 5, 2013. Friends say that he went into the water to retrieve a bag of ice that was dropped by rafters when he disappeared from view.

    TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff

  • Gary LaCroix's belongings are seen on the shore of the Merrimack River on Friday afternoon, July 5, 2013. <br/><br/>TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff

    Gary LaCroix's belongings are seen on the shore of the Merrimack River on Friday afternoon, July 5, 2013.

    TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff

  • Master Police Officer Eric Crane, right, and bystanders, inlcuding Gary "Crabby" LaCroix (left), look on as the Concord Fire Department searches for John and Ayla Mauk in the Merrimack River in Concord on Thursday, July 4, 2013. John Mauk, of Concord, jumped into the Merrimack River to rescue his daughter, Ayla, after she failed to reach shore while riding an inflatable tube on the river. According to witnesses, two unidentified people helped John and Ayla Mauk to shore. <br/><br/>TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff
  • A kayaker passes by as emergency personnel search for the body of Gary LaCroix, who went missing in the Merrimack River on Friday afternoon, July 5, 2013. Friends say that he went into the water to retrieve a bag of ice that was dropped by rafters when he disappeared from view. <br/><br/>TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff
  • Emergency personnel search for the body of Gary LaCroix, who went missing in the Merrimack River on Friday afternoon, July 5, 2013. Friends say that he went into the water to retrieve a bag of ice that was dropped by rafters when he disappeared from view. <br/><br/>TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff
  • Emergency personnel search for the body of Gary LaCroix, who went missing in the Merrimack River on Friday afternoon, July 5, 2013. Friends say that he went into the water to retrieve a bag of ice that was dropped by rafters when he disappeared from view.  <br/><br/>TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff
  • Gary LaCroix's belongings are seen on the shore of the Merrimack River on Friday afternoon, July 5, 2013. <br/><br/>TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff

A man drowned in the Merrimack River yesterday after witnesses said he dipped below the swelling waters about 2:05 p.m. while trying to retrieve a piece of trash.

Concord fire Chief Dan Andrus confirmed that the man’s body was found by a dive team about 5:45 p.m. His name has not been released pending notification of family.

But acquaintances who often fished with the man at the Second Street boat ramp where he was last seen identified him as Gary LaCroix, 59. LaCroix, who went mainly by his nickname “Crabby,” was pictured in the Monitor last month, sitting on the side of Sewalls Falls Road where he sunbathed nearly every afternoon, waving to friends and strangers as they drove by.

A man who was fishing with LaCroix yesterday and asked to not be named said LaCroix went into the water to retrieve a bag of ice that had dropped from a floating cooler being dragged by two teens rafting down the river. He said LaCroix walked out until he was about neck deep, then seemed to hit a gully and disappeared.

“He was talking to me and hit a deep hole and went under,” the man said. “And I just saw his hand.”

As the man ran to grab a life jacket from his car, he called to Matt Famiglietti, who was walking along the shore, and told him to call 911. Famiglietti said he called to LaCroix and asked if he was okay. He heard LaCroix yell something back before he went under again.

“I thought it was ‘Help.’ But it sounded like a mouthful of water,” he said.

As Famiglietti called 911, it took the other man about two minutes to retrieve his life jacket and get back into the water. He searched for about 15 minutes, swimming out to just past the center of the river where the rushing current began to break in white crests, before Concord Fire Department crews told him to wait on the shore.

After about an hour and a half of searching, Andrus said his crews had about exhausted their rescue work and were preparing to turn the search over to the Marine Patrol, which was also on scene. The dive team arrived about 5:15 p.m.

Yesterday’s search was the second in two days from the Second Street boat ramp. On Thursday, a 9-year-old girl jumped out of her inner tube while floating down the river and tried to swim ashore after she passed by the area where her friends and family were sitting. Her father swam out to get her, and the two went missing for a short time.

A group of boaters saw them floating and helped them ashore.

Andrus said yesterday that the river’s current is stronger than typical for this time of the year because of recent heavy rains. At the spot where LaCroix went under, a person can typically walk across the river easily.

Andrus said many people swim on the river over the Fourth of July weekend and cautioned that those planning to do so this year may want to make other plans.

“There’s certainly people who are out there who have flotation devices on and are being safe and appropriate in the river,” he said.

“But just for casual recreational uses, be well warned that it’s a different river than it has been in past Julys. And in a second, things can change very dramatically and tragically.”

Before the man’s body was found, as boats sped up and down the water, Andrus was holding out hope that he had floated away and ended up on the banks down shore. But then he pointed to LaCroix’s belongings by the water – a lawn chair made of green and white mesh fabric, a light blue towel draped over the back, and a fishing rod sticking out of the tall grass.

“That’s all this stuff,” Andrus said. “You’d think if he got out he’d come back.”

The man’s car – with “CRABBY” on the license plates – was parked in the nearby lot.

(Tricia L. Nadolny can be reached at 369-3306 or tnadolny@cmonitor.com or on Twitter
@tricia_nadolny.)

Legacy Comments2

I WORKED with Grab Gary LaCroix for many years! When we worked together we actually had to depend on each other for our very lives... He was a great friend, more like the brother I never had. I pray for his family and especially for his daughter! Love you my brother!!! Pray I see you again one day!!! Sorry we lost touch wish I could have seen you once more! Rest In peace From Busterbunns - Chet White

I'm actually his daughter, Heather. Thank you for the kind words! It means a lot. Hopefully we all will see him again one day!

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