Department News

Press Release: Drowning in Merrimack River, victim identified as Lowell PD Officer

At 8:43 pm on Saturday, July 23rd the Tyngsborough Police Department received a 911 call reporting that a person had jumped into the Merrimack River off a boat and had failed to return to the surface.  A subsequent search involving Fire Departments from Tyngsborough, Nashua, Hudson and Lowell as well as dive teams from the Massachusetts State Police, Lowell, Nashua & Hudson, NH were involved in the search.

A Massachusetts State Police helicopter also assisted.  Trinity EMS and paramedics were also on scene.   At 11:43 the male victim, Charles S. Panek, 30 years old of Dracut was found in approximately 14 feet of water approximately 300 feet off shore, North of the boat ramp located at 76 Frost Road.

Mr. Panek was pronounced dead at the scene.    Mr. Panek has been a Lowell Police Officer since 2006, was assigned to the patrol division in the West sector of the city on the 5pm – 1am shift.  Officer Panek was a decorated member of the department having received the departments Medal of Valor.  Officer Panek was also an honorably discharged Veteran of the United States Marine Corp.

He was currently a member of an airborne unit of the Rhode Island Army National Guard and was soon to be deployed to Afghanistan per operation Enduring Freedom.  Officer Panek had previously been deployed to Iraq with the Army National Guard.

The thoughts and prayers of all members of the Lowell and Tyngsborough Police Department go out to Officer Panek’s family and friends.

An initial investigation revealed that Officer Panek had been boating with his brother and friend.  At some point Officer Panek told them that he was going to jump off and told them to come back and get him.  Panek then jumped into the water, however he never resurfaced.

Witnesses who were watching this boat from the shore line confirmed the account of the boat occupants; they reported observing a person jump from the boat into the water and fail to resurface.

Officer Panek’s body has been transported to the State Medical Examiners office.

The Tyngsborough Police Department , Massachusetts State Police and the Environmental Police are investigating.

Released by: Lt. Richard Howe