TYNGSBORO (CBS) – A Lowell police officer drowned after diving off of a pleasure boat and into the Merrimack River in Tyngsboro on Saturday night.

The victim was identified as 30-year-old Charles Panek, who had been a member of the Lowell police force since 2006. He was also an honorably discharged Veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps.

Police said Panek was boating with his brother and friend when he told them he was going to jump into the river. He also told his brother and friend to later come back and get him, but Panek never resurfaced.

WBZ-TV’s Jim Smith reports.

Fire department divers began their search of the waters along with a state police helicopter just before 9 p.m. Saturday. About three hours later, Panek’s body was found in about 14 feet of water about 300 feet offshore.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Kim Tunnicliffe reports.

Panek was pronounced dead at the scene.

“We are deeply saddened by the tragic death of Lowell police officer, Charles S. Panek. Our thoughts, prayers, and deepest sympathies go out to the family of Officer Panek,” said Superintendent Kenneth Lavallee.

Panek earned the Medal of Valor from the Lowell Police Departent.  He had previously served in Iraq and was scheduled to head to Afghanistan soon.

Tyngsboro and state police are investigating.

Comments (12)
  1. John Mac says:

    Sorry to hear about the guy drowning but the headline is written as if the guy was working when it happened. There is no need to mention that this guy worked as a cop in the headline. What if he was a janitor, would they have written “Lowell Janitor Drowns In Merrimack River In Tyngsboro”.
    Good grief!

    1. M. Graves says:

      John, I understand what youre saying, Ill see if I can provide a different point of view. As a police officer (it was actually PJ that influenced me to try join this career) I can tell you policing/law enforcement requires such a commitment of a person, it becomes much more than an occupation. I understand people may have different views about us as police, but the majority of cops, and ALL good cops, take this job as a chance to help their communities. ITs not something that you leave at the office when you go home. It essentially comes to define WHO you are. So for us in law enforcement, the title of police officer is something we cherish. The responsibility and honor we associate with it makes it a badge of honor to be called a police officer. Just like the title of United States Marine. I can assure you, if you asked PJ to describe himself, in 50 words or less two of those words would be Marine and Police officer/cop. So It may sound strange for the paper to print that little fact, but to us, and for him, its kind of like a final bit of respect that Im sure he would appreciate.

      1. Ajay says:

        I disagree. His job may be important to him and his family or to those in his circle. But why should his job matter to the rest of us? Its a shame when anyone dies before thier time. Cop, janitor, unemployed, etc… it doesn’t matter.
        The story is only a few days old and irt already stinks of a cover-up. Initially, it was reported that “Alcohol was not a factor.” That suggests that nobody was drinking. Today, its reported that “…his brother, who was driving, was sober…” That’s not quite the same. That suggests that they (as agroup) were drinking and his brother was below the legal limit.
        Three guys out in a boat at night on a summer weekend and NOBODY was drinking? Give me a break.

  2. Michael graves says:

    Pj was my best friend. He was was a member of 2D Reconnaissance Bn, USMC. He was also a paratrooper in the national guard afterwards and hed deployed overseas. he was extremely patriotic and was proud to be a soldier and a police officer. He was also boxer and a brazilian jiu jitsu player. He listened to punk and rock and old school hip hop. He had a blue collar work ethic and a masters degree. He had full sleeve tattoos and a mohawk but was a sweet heart and a favorite of my mother and wife. PJ was comfortable with all race and creeds and had friends from all walks of life. As I said he was my best fiend and his ONLY fault was that he lived life too fast and too fully. His experiences in thirty years overshadow what many people do in twice that time. He will be dearly missed.

  3. Sarah says:

    RIP PJ you will be missed

  4. D Caf says:

    My condolences to his family and friends.

    @Michael Graves – what a wonderful tribute to your friend. He sounds like a GREAT man and it’s obvious that he will be missed dearly!

  5. Stephen Rost says:


  6. Stephen Rost says:


    I will be wondering whether he was struck by a moving watercraft, or dove upon a submerged rock whild entering the water.

  7. R.I.P. says:

    R.I.P PJ thanks for your service my heart goes out to his family and friends

  8. Lisa says:

    May this officer -RIP to the gentleman who took offence to the way the article was written in the lowell sun. I understand that all people who die do not get recognized in the same fashion but i will first start off by saying I personaly never new this officer but people who serve the streets ,save lives,fight fires deploy over sees everyday put their lives at risk to keep their community a safer place to live ! It’s a job that runs 24 hours a day . They give up weekends,holidays When theres a state of emergency due to snow and so forth so many sacrifices yes some would say so what they chose this career but all these men and women are everyday hero’s to all the police officer,state troopers ,firefighters,nurses Cna’s that sacrifice i believe it Is a job they live as hero’s and should be recognized .. RIP a life cut to short a hero taken to soon .

  9. Timmy says:

    Drinking??? Brother always take care of each other….. They will bust someone for a DWI but when a cop stops another cop all you need to do is flash the badge and your on your way. That why they call themself brothers! Would you bust your brother? I kow been thereand cone that.

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