Quick actions of rescuers and a little luck saved two boys from drowning in freezing water in Franklin

The Stevens Mill complex overlooks the Winnipesaukee River in Franklin. Police and firefighters saved two children from the cold water on Friday. 

The Stevens Mill complex overlooks the Winnipesaukee River in Franklin. Police and firefighters saved two children from the cold water on Friday.  Jon Decker

Police and firefighters saved two children from the cold water of the Winnipesaukee River in Franklin on Friday. 

Police and firefighters saved two children from the cold water of the Winnipesaukee River in Franklin on Friday.  —Courtesy

By RAY DUCKLER

Monitor staff

Published: 03-04-2024 5:57 PM

Modified: 03-04-2024 7:05 PM


With hypothermia approaching fast, the combined efforts of a Franklin police officer who jumped into freezing water, working in concert with firefighters and other rescue personnel, saved the lives of two young boys last Friday who had fallen from their father’s canoe into the Winnipesaukee River.

Both are doing well. The lifeless body of one of the boys, 2 years old, was pulled from the water after his breathing had shut down and he had suffered cardiac arrest. CPR was performed on the scene, bringing the boy back to life before he was brought to the hospital in Franklin.

“He is exceeding all expectations,” said Franklin Police Chief Dave Goldstein.

The other boy, 5, was suffering from hypothermia but speaking to rescuers when he was pulled from the water. His injuries were non-life-threatening.

Both boys were wearing life jackets, which officials said most likely saved their lives.

A 911 call came in shortly after 4 p.m. Friday, alerting police that someone had heard “screaming for help,” said David Hall, deputy chief of the Franklin Fire Department.

Police responded to the area and found the boys’ father out of the water, near the shoreline. He made his way to land after the canoe capsized due to the turbulence created by the discharge of water from a nearby hydroelectric dam. The churning water pulled the boat towards the outflow and flipped it, emergency officials said.

Goldstein declined to name the father, adding that charges could be coming.

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Arriving first on the scene, Franklin Police Sgt. Forrest Walker jumped into the water and quickly struggled to stabilize himself and reach the boys due to the water temperature and the churning currents. Captain Jason Jenkins of the Franklin Fire Department described it as dangerous “turbulence of water from the area of the power generator. The turbulence pulls you in and spits you out, and that can make it hard to move.”

Walker, in fact, had trouble moving from several steel planks, where he reached out and grabbed the boys, then received help from Jenkins and others, who used a piece of fire equipment called a pike pole, which was hooked onto the boys’ backpacks and allowed rescuers to pull them to safety. The whole rescue took less than 30 minutes.

“It certainly was a very fast-paced and dynamic rescue,” Jenkins said. “There was a lot going on and very little time to gather information there. Everybody just jumped into action and worked well as a team for a relatively quick rescue.”

In the end, a sequence of events fell neatly into place to help save the boys, including the work of an Eagle Creek hydroelectric employee, who was driving by and was able to shut off the turbine and close the gates, smoothing out the water. Eagle Creek owns and operates four run-of-river hydroelectric facilities on the Winnipesaukee River, including the Stevens Mills Dam in Franklin.

“Each thing that we needed to happen lined up for us,” Jenkins said. “We located the kids quickly, the ambulances were quick, (the kids) were wearing life jackets, and someone whose help we needed just happened to come by and help. No one gave up.”