Authorities recover body of 20-year-old kayaker in Merrimack River in Concord

  • Dive teams work on the Merrimack River on Friday morning in Concord as authorities search for a man who went missing after his kayak capsized on the river early Thursday morning. The body was located about 2:30 p.m. Friday. Nick Stoico / Monitor staff

  • Search teams were back on the Merrimack River Friday morning (June 14, 2019) in Concord as authorities work to find a man who went missing after his kayak capsized on the river early Thursday morning. (NICK STOICO / Monitor staff) Nick Stoico—Monitor staff

  • The search for a missing kayaker on the Merrimack River in Concord continued on Friday morning (June 14, 2019). The man has been missing since his kayak capsized while fishing with his brother Thursday morning. Nick Stoico—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 6/14/2019 12:20:47 PM

The search for a missing kayaker on the Merrimack River in Concord ended on its second day as a diver with the Fish and Game Department recovered the 20-year-old man’s body from the bottom of the river on Friday.

Authorities identified the victim as Alec Bronchuk of Merrimack. He was fishing with his older brother, Sean Donahue, 24, early Thursday morning when their two kayaks began to take on water. Both men got out of their kayaks as they began to sink and attempted to swim with the current towards the western shoreline, according to State Police. Neither of the men had life jackets in their kayaks.

Donahue swam to a rock about 20 feet from the shore and eventually reached safety. He walked the shoreline searching for his brother before finding a passerby in the area who called 911 for help.

The call was made about 7 a.m. Thursday, setting off a search effort that involved Fish and Game as well as State Police-Marine Patrol and Concord’s police and fire departments.

Bronchuk was found about 30 yards from shore Friday about 2:45 p.m.

Fish and Game Sgt. Geoffrey Pushee said it was a difficult day for all involved, none more than the family of this young man.

“No one wants to see a family lose a son or a daughter or anyone,” Pushee told reporters as the staging area near the Sewalls Falls bridge was being broken down. “In this case, it’s a pretty close-knit family and they’re dealing with it as best they can. I’m just happy we could bring some closure to the family.”

Shortly after Bronchuk’s body was recovered, the dive team returned to the staging area to shed their equipment. A man walked over and hugged each of the divers.

While the search teams employed underwater cameras and sonar devices, it was a single diver who found the body under 9 feet of water about half a mile downstream from the Sewalls Falls Bridge boat launch where they had set out Thursday morning.

“With the river currents (Thursday) it’s possible he drowned farther upstream and was pushed down into this deep hole,” Pushee said.

The dive crew had to wait until Friday to go in because the river’s current was too strong Thursday. After working with the state’s Dam Bureau to hold back water at the Franklin Falls Dam, the current slowed and the water level dropped enough to send divers in when the search resumed early Friday morning.

On Thursday, the two kayaks were discovered in the middle of the river in Concord. Some of their personal belongings had been located earlier in the day, including what appeared to be a fishing net.

Authorities are urging all boaters to use life jackets. It is required by state law that each boater have a wearable life jacket with them whenever they are underway.

“It’s extremely important any time of year to be wearing a life jacket, but especially where there are still cold water conditions, swift-moving water and very strong currents,” Pushee said. “This could definitely have been an avoidable accident if a life jacket had been worn.”

(Nick Stoico can be reached at 369-3321, or on Twitter @NickStoico.)

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