Weekend accident calls attention to dangers of Livermore Falls swing rope
By DAN SEUFERT Union Leader Correspondent
Swimmers and rafters enjoy the summer-like weather at Livermore Falls on Tuesday. (DAN SEUFERT)
CAMPTON — As the afternoon’s heat grew on Tuesday, a group of teenagers in their swimming clothes dragged several rubber boats to a beach on the Pemigewasset River just below Livermore Falls.
Reaching the calm river’s waters, one of two bearded young men stood on a rock and looked upstream.
He shook his head.
“No swing,” he said to his friends.
Indeed, there was no rope swing hanging from the historic — and extremely dangerous — Pumpkin Seed Bridge over the base of the falls.
There hasn’t been a swing there since Sunday, when a young woman was seriously injured after investigators say she jumped from a high rock formation above the base of the falls toward a rope swing that had been hanging from the bridge.
The swing is not supposed to be there — a fact that beachgoers Tuesday said they did not know.
“It’s very dangerous,” said Campton Police Chief Chris Warn, whose town is one of three — Campton, Plymouth and Holderness — where the most popular beach in the falls area sits. Police patrol the falls area where approximately 10 people have died in the past few decades.
“We must have taken that rope swing down about 50 times this year, or it seems like that,” Warn said. “But as soon as we take it down, another one goes up. There’s only so much you can do.”
Authorities said Alexyss Langevin, 21, of Ayer, Mass., suffered a serious head injury as she jumped toward a rope swing that was hanging from the old bridge.
Langevin’s health has improved, Warn said.
“We’ve since heard that she’s out of danger,” he said.
The bridge, which is covered in rust, is fenced off from public access above, and can only be reached by climbing craggy rocks below and beside it. To hang a rope, people have to climb it and hang on it, police said.
Police and town officials, who have formed a “friends” group with local residents dedicated to improving Livermore Falls and the state park land abutting the falls, are trying to make the falls safer to use.
But Langevin was walking on dangerous rocks toward a dangerous swing.
“The rope swing is always a problem,” Warn said. “I’ve been covering that area in this police department for 25 years, and it seems like that’s always been a problem.
Holderness Town Administrator Walter Johnson said Friends of the Pemi: Livermore Falls Chapter is working with state park officials to educate users of the area on the falls’ history and geology this summer.
On Saturday, June 13, state parks officials will work with group members on a safety program, with safety instructors on the beach in Holderness, Johnson said.
“We’re doing what you can, but it’s also obviously very dangerous up on those rocks,” Johnson said.
“It’s difficult to deal with when you have a situation in which everything about the rope swing is taken down and then replaced within 24 hours.”