Oct 16, 2015 5:59 PM
BETHLEHEM - A body discovered in a northern New Hampshire river is believed to be that of a missing Massachusetts hiker.
Claire Marie Cocuzzo, 64, of Westwood, Mass. was reported missing on Wednesday after she didn't return home from an annual hike to the White Mountains.
Her Toyota Corolla with Mass. license plates was also discovered in a lot by the Gale River trail head the same day.
N.H. Fish and Game officials believe they discovered Cocuzzo's body in the Gale River shortly before 11 a.m. Friday after a two-day search, which included 30 search members on the ground and aerial support from an Army National Guard helicopter.
“We’re still pending a positive identification, but all indications are that it’s potentially Claire Marie Cocuzzo," said Lt. James Kneeland of Fish and Game.
Cocuzzo was known as a regular "leaf peeper", according to friends, and knew area hiking trails very well. She also typically hiked alone and without a GPS.
Initial reports said Cocuzzo had planned a 26-mile round-trip hike from the Mount Garfield trail head to Bond Cliff over a five-day period starting on Oct. 5.
But on Friday morning, Fish and Game said they received new information from three women who reported seeing Cocuzzo at Galehead Hut on Sept. 29 during heavy rainfall.
It's believed that was the last time Cocuzzo was seen alive.
Friends of Cocuzzo, who said she worked as a radiologic technologist at Dedham Medical Associates, drove to the Mt. Garfield area to assist in the search.
"She often would camp places off the trail," said co-worker Larry Ryan, although adding that Cocuzzo typically returned on time.
Ryan said when Cocuzzo didn't show up for work on Monday, he and co-workers became concerned - but they did not expect the saddening news of her death.
Rather, they wondered if she had gotten injured or was inside her tent - stating that Cocuzzo had few fears and ventured nearly anywhere while on the trail when she discussed her passion for hiking.
“I said aren’t you afraid of bears, aren’t of you afraid of this or that? 'Nah, if they’re going to get you – they’re going to get you'," he said.
Cocuzzo was 5'2" and weighed 120 lbs., according to Fish and Game, who believes the woman may have tried to cross the fast-moving river.
The body, believed to be Cocuzzo's, was located along an embankment in the Gale River about two miles from the trail head by a Fish and Game conservation officer.
The body was not easily visible from the trail, authorities said.
Cocuzzo had proper hiking gear but did not have an activated cell phone, Lt. Kneeland told NH1 News.
A medical examiner was called to the scene to positively identify the body.
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