, Newburyport, MA

Local News

November 19, 2012

Search called off for sailor

Missing man presumed drowned in Merrimack River


Decker is a German national who grew up on the Rhine River and has been living in the North Shore area for several months, according to a friend of Decker. He had purchased the sailboat earlier this fall and had been working on it at a Haverhill marina, before putting it in the water about a month ago.

Police are still trying to piece together what happened to Decker, but it appears while in the dingy, he had tried to cut a rope that had become entangled around the sailboat’s propeller when it flipped over. It’s believed that Decker left his dog tied to the pole at the shoreline because the dog was afraid of the tipsy dinghy. Authorities think Decker planned to bring the sailboat to Cashman Park to pick up his dog.

A search of the sailboat showed that Decker wasn’t wearing a life preserver. But with such cold water, it might not have made a difference.

The search began for him on Friday morning, after police gathered two important pieces of evidence. On Thursday night, police received a call about a dog tied to a pole at Cashman Park. They identified the dog, a Siberian husky named Toleman, as belonging to Decker. The following morning the Coast Guard discovered his overturned dingy tied to his sailboat, and upon boarding the sailboat found no one onboard. Local and state police, along with the Coast Guard, began an extensive search of the area.

Much of Friday, a Coast Guard helicopter patrolled around the immediate area, as well as up the river as far as Merrimac and down to the ocean. Rescue efforts were hampered by what is called “flood tide,” a twice-yearly event in which abnormally high tides occur, sending a strong surge of water up the river. Visibility in the water was limited to about 3 to 4 feet, according to rescue officials.

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