CONCORD, NH – The body of a Massachusetts woman reported missing by her family was found by a search team dispatched in the White Mountains after she did not return from a planned hike in New Hampshire.
At 10:47 a.m. on Oct. 16 searchers coordinated by the New Hampshire Fish & Game Department located the body that matched the description of missing hiker Clairemarie Cocuzzo, 64, of Westwood, Mass. She was found along the Gale River in the town of Bethlehem.
Positive identification will be made by the NH Medical Examiner, pending tests to confirm the identity of the body.
A family member reported Cocuzzo missing when she did not return from a planned hike in the White Mountain National Forest. Her reported itinerary had been to hike from Mount Garfield Trailhead to Bond Cliff and back, which is approximately 26 miles.
On October 15, 2015, ground crews from the NH Fish & Game Department and the Appalachian Mountain Club searched the tent sites at which Cocuzzo had planned to stay. An Army National Guard Blackhawk helicopter conducted an aerial search of the trails, cliffs and drainages in the area, but no new evidence was found.
Cocuzzo’s picture and a request for information from anyone who might have seen her on the trail went out through news and social media outlets on October 15. A tip came in through social media Oct. 16 that assisted the search effort. Hikers had spotted someone who they believed to be Cocuzzo on the evening of September 29 staying at the Gale Head Hut atop Garfield Ridge. This informed officials that Cocuzzo had arrived in New Hampshire a week earlier than previously thought. River crossings along hiking trails in the White Mountains had become swollen and treacherous due to rainfall. It is believed that Cocuzzo was swept away while crossing the swollen Gale River.
Responders participating in the search effort included NH Fish & Game Department Conservation Officers; volunteers from Pemigewasset Valley Search and Rescue, Androscoggin Valley Search and Rescue and the Upper Valley Wilderness Response Team; and personnel from the US Forest Service. The Grafton County Sheriff’s Department and the Bethlehem Police Department provided critical support for the search operation.
Fish & Game urges outdoor enthusiasts to check weather and trail conditions before heading out on hikes this fall, and to be prepared for potential cold weather, high water, and trails slippery or obscured by fallen leaves. Learn more about safe hiking at www.hikesafe.com.
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