Tragic loss: Massachusetts mother drowns saving son at New Hampshire waterfall

Melissa Bagley (Provided by Everett Police Department)

A mother drowned trying to rescue her 10-year-old son as he was pulled by the current at a popular waterfall, New Hampshire authorities said. An older son who jumped in to help became lodged in boulders and was rescued by his father, a Massachusetts police officer.

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

A child slipped and fell into a pool and could not escape the fast, circulating current, Sgt. Heidi Murphy, of the state Fish and Game Department, said in a news release. Bagley "jumped into the river to help her child and began to immediately have trouble," she said.

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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.


Scenic views of the White Mountain National Forest, a stretch of forested wilderness in central New Hampshire and Western Maine, as seen on July 7, 2023 outside of Chatham, New Hampshire. (Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

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 father then made it over to the son trapped by the boulders and pulled him to safety. That son suffered injuries and was taken to a hospital, police said.

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

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"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.

Franconia Falls is a popular hiking destination and swimming hole in the White Mountain National Forest. People can slide off rock slabs into pools of water, but a website that describes New England waterfalls cautions that people should "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.