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Search on the Merrimack


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We received a request:

My name is Hans Hug and I live in Exeter NH and when I’m not selling Insurance I am scuba diving and running side-scan-sonar looking for a wide variety of things in a wide variety of places ranging from the Connecticut River to Cape Ann to Cape Cod. 

Sometimes I get paid to search for specific things like platinum rings, snowmobiles, guns, outboard motors, mooring blocks etc. and sometimes I charge nothing depending on the what-where-when and why of the inquiry. Bodies are another target-of-interest to me and I have spent a lot of time searching for a number of missing people over the years. Sometimes it’s an accident sometimes it’s a murder sometimes a simple missing person case.

What I am working on now and the purpose of my email has to do with a missing person from the Lowell area.

Last week I got a call from a very upset woman named Suzanne Lemire in Lowell who is the mother of (missing person) Matthew Hrinchuk, Dracut MA. Upset, as in shattered, that her (depressed) son had disappeared after apparently jumping off the Aiken Street Bridge (“Oullette Bridge”) sometime in the early morning hours in Lowell on or about 2/23/23. She asked me if I would help search for her son and I have decided to start a file on him and work the case free of charge.

News story here:


Suzanne was referred to me by the brother of a person I was looking for in August 2021 as part of a 39 year old cold case out of Chelmsford. At the time I did not know the brother as this was a quiet search between me and my buddy Bruce, who is an ROV pilot when he is not working for Dell. As a rule we don’t talk about our searches for various reasons. We do of course talk about them at some point but there needs to be a compelling reason to do so.

My buddy and I did find her car in a river in Billerica that lead to her body, among other things we were specifically looking for so he sent her to me because you could say we are friends now. 

Why I write: As a scuba diver and sonar operator I know a lot about how things change when submerged in fresh or salt water and besides my diving and sonar capability I am going to use I was thinking: Bodies often float (and often sink again) so why not see if he can be found floating in the Merrimack and checking both riverbanks  from the Aiken Street bridge to a few miles south by kayak. Actually a number of kayaks.  Bodies can travel great distances given the right circumstances-miles is not unusual at all.

Here is what I want to know: Do you know any kayakers who would volunteer their time and kayak the Merrimack looking for Matt’s body? Unless he is snagged on something thus holding him underwater he “should” float. The warmer the water gets the faster gas is created hence, floating.

I believe due to the present water temp (about 40-45 degrees F) he is on the bottom and only river current will bring him to the surface-hence get eyes on the surface paying particular attention to shore areas. One bend south of the bridge has my attention. Snow melt will increase the chances of him coming to the surface.

Can you help finding me volunteer kayakers or know someone who can? The day(s) of any kayak search(s) would be coordinated by me from shore so we act as a group, but staying together during any actual search is not needed nor realistic.  

Any help or direction with my idea of a kayak-based search would be appreciated. Please note I have also sent this email to ACA Paddlesports in Beverly and the UMass-Lowell group based on the Merrimack River north of the Aiken Street Bridge above the dam to the north.

Hans Hug
Sonar Search & Recovery
P.O. Box 580
Exeter NH 03833

Tel:  603-778-8939
Cell anytime: 617-513-2778
Website: www.SonarSAR.com         
Email: info@SonarSAR.com

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So…what to do about this ?  I just looked at floating trails for Merrimack charting… only displays River from Haverhill-Bradford area to Newburyport.  I didn’t look for very long but couldn’t find charting online for Lowell to Haverhill.  I don’t think there are any dams or fish ladders in that section, but I am not sure. Since there was next to no ice in the river this winter, it is less likely that a body would have been trapped and slowed down by ice over etc, getting hung up on debris is possible.  The person has been missing for some time and I think one would have to look the entire length of the River from Lowell to Newburyport.

This appeal was written oddly, do you think he is legitimate?

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PS  I did read the newspaper article noted and looked at Hans website.  Stuff looks legitimate, but just wondered what you thought...

If we were to post this request, I don't think the General Message Board would be the appropriate place and probably should say members would be volunteering at own risk. Helping others is noble, but finding a dead body would be very traumatizing, folks receive special training for such work and rescue & recovery folks have debriefing protocols to assist in minimizing negative effects.

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Hi all,

     This must be the same guy I met on the lake in my town about ten years ago. I remember he was from the area, and we spoke for a while on the water about his searching and recovery work. They have hydroplane racing on Milton Three Ponds. Someone had "lost" a very expensive outboard racing engine in about 18' or murky water.

   If this is a weekday maybe.

  If I get OTW I want a buddy system due to Sue's above-mentioned concerns.

Can someone local scout the area first?  Because it may be shallow and really nasty with rocks and strainers?

Can the surface be seen from riverbanks just as well?

  Seems like a low probability of success on any one day. 

I am going to contact him about an antique boat and motor in Maine that I know of. It was my friend's pride and joy until they got tipsy and it got tipsy...





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Because of the dam in Lawrence, presumably only the stretch from Lowell Aiken Ave. bridge to the dam is relevant.   This is what I gleaned from a quick look at Google Maps satellite view.   In Lowell, there are walks or bike paths from Aiken St. to an area below Hunts Falls Bridge, where there appears to be a rapid or riffles. The rest down to the dam in Lawrence could be scouted less thoroughly from roads.   Since that section will be partly backed up because of the dam in Lawrence, I would guess, without having looked at it, that it could be navigated upstream and down from a small motorboat, and I wonder if Mr. Hug would not prefer to do that himself.    From this report, it seems the whole stretch can be kayaked:  https://www.bostonkayaker.com/cgi-bin/bkonekpage.cgi?pagekey=merrimacklowell.  The report mentions that  the flow was 20,000 cfs when kayaked.

Edited by Frederick Goodman
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