Woman dies at Franconia Falls falls while trying to save her son 

By Staff and Wire reports

Published: 08-16-2023 6:30 PM

A woman’s body was pulled from the Pemigewasset River near Franconia Falls in Lincoln on Tuesday after she drowned while trying to rescue her son.

New Hampshire State Police Marine Patrol responded to the Franconia Falls area around 4 p.m. for reports that a person was trapped in the water, according to the New Hampshire Department of Safety. 

Melissa Bagley, 44, was part of a family of six from Lynn, Massachusetts, visiting the falls in the White Mountain National Forest along with a friend Tuesday afternoon, authorities said. The series of waterfalls are several miles off the scenic Kancamagus Highway.

An initial investigation revealed that the group was hiking the falls when the family’s 10-year-old son fell into the water. Bagley “jumped into the river to help her child and began to immediately have trouble,” said Sgt. Heidi Murphy, of the state Fish and Game Department.

Two other children jumped in to help their brother and mother. They were able to get the child out of the water, but an 18-year-old brother who was trying to help became lodged in boulders, Murphy said.

The father searched for Bagley and found her in water below the falls, police said. He began CPR, but she could not be revived, Murphy said.  The 18-year-old son was transported to Littleton Hospital with minor injuries. 

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The Everett Police Department identified Lt. Sean Bagley as the husband of Melissa Bagley.

“While we appreciate all those who have reached out we ask that Lt Bagley and his family be given the time and space to mourn the death of Melissa,” the department said in a statement posted on Facebook.

Autopsy results are pending but drugs and alcohol do not appear to be a factor, authorities said. 

Franconia Falls is a popular hiking destination and swimming hole where eople can slide off rock slabs into pools of water, but a website dedicated to New England waterfalls cautions visitors to “take a moment to observe the turbulence in the pool below the falls to help you gauge potential risks."

Other people have drowned at the falls, including a 38-year-old man in July 2017, a 17-year-old hiker in August 2015 and a 39-year-old man in October 2003.