The body of a 6-year-old boy who drowned in the Merrimack River during a family fishing trip to Deer Island in Newburyport Thursday evening was recovered Sunday.

The boy's mother, identified as Boua DeChhat, 29, of Lowell, went into the water to rescue her son, Mas DeChhat, and 7-year-old daughter Elyssa. She was able to hoist the girl onto a boat that offered assistance, but could not lift herself. She was located by first responders shortly afterwards, but was pronounced dead at Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport.

The boy's body was found by a kayaker operating in the Pipers Quarry area about a mile away. The body will be taken to the office of the Massachusetts Chief Medical Examiner for positive identification.

Massachusetts State Police had 12 divers, along with four boat operators from the department’s Marine Unit, searching the river during the weekend. Divers from the Boston Fire Department also joined the search.

Boat used in search for 6-year-old boy in the Merrimack River in Newburyport 6/10/22
Boat used in search for 6-year-old boy in the Merrimack River in Newburyport 6/10/22 (Michael Kent)

"My wife went to heaven a hero"

More details of how the tragedy unfolded were disclosed by Mass. State Police.

The boy reached for a stick in the water for when he went with his dad, Sammy DeChhat, 31, to their car to get some gear, according to police.  Elyssa tried to grab her brother and also fell into the water. Their mother, who does not know how to swim, jumped into the water and got caught in the swift currents the river, and they were carried westward under the Whittier Bridge on Route 95.

Police said their father, who is also not a swimmer, jumped in after all three but began to struggle. He grabbed a rock and managed to get out. He was hospitalized at Seabrook Hospital for treatment of exposure and hypothermia.

A GoFundMe page was created by Sammy's employer, Mark Tremblay, to help with the family's funeral expenses.

"We will be helping them out considerably on a personal level," Tremblay wrote on his Facebook page.

DeChhat family
DeChhat family (Mark Tremblay via GoFundMe)

A Grateful Father

Sammy thanked first responders on his Facebook page.

"Just want to thank everyone who put in the effort to helping locate my son. My family and wife's family for reassuring me that I'm not alone. And to all the great people I met during this time reminding me that there's still good people in this world with pure intentions."

Krissy Lanier wrote on her Facebook page that Mas was one of her students in her kindergarten classes, and taught his sisters.

"When I heard he was missing this morning I broke down. Mas is an intricate part of our classroom and his empty seats and spots today were felt deep in my soul... he's just a little boy," Lanier wrote.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNH

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