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Plane crashes in Meredith Bay

First responders met Stoneham Police Officer Joe Ponzo at a dock to help transport a pilot who crashed into Lake Winnipesaukee Sunday afternoon, Aug. 9. (Photo courtesy Stoneham Police Officer Joe Ponzo). (Courtesy Photo) (click for larger version)
August 13, 2020
MEREDITH — A Center Harbor man escaped serious injury after his plane crashed Meredith Bay and was rescued by boaters, including off duty police officer from Massachusetts.

According to a statement by New Hampshire Marine Patrol, 78-year-old David Grapes of Center Harbor was flying his ultralight plane solo on Sunday. He was around 1,000 feet over Meredith Bay when his engine stopped, then crashed into the bay by Grouse Point and his plane sunk in around 65 feet of water.

The Stoneham, Mass. Police Department issued a statement saying that their own officer was involved in the rescue. According to the statement by Stoneham Police, Officer Joe Ponzo was boating on Winnipesaukee with his family when he saw an ultralight glider plane crash into the lake. Ponzo called Marine Patrol and rushed to the scene. He and other boaters pulled Grapes out of the water. Grapes was conscious and alert at the time.

According to Marine Patrol, Marine Patrol Officer Zachary Cobis was on patrol in Winnipesaukee when a boater flagged him down around 3 p.m. and advised him of the crash.

Marine Patrol, Stewart's Ambulance, and the Meredith and Laconia Fire Departments responded to the scene. Stoneham Police reported that Ponzo met the rescue teams and brought Grapes to safety. Grapes was transported to Lakes Region General Hospital in Laconia for treatment.

"Thankfully, we were in the right place at the right time," Ponzo said in the statement issued by Stoneham Police. "The plane sank into the water right after the crash and the man was able to get himself out before we got there. He was in the water and a few other boaters came to help me get him into my boat."

Stoneham Police Chief James McIntyre praised Ponzo's service.

"Even off-duty on vacation with our families we are never truly off the job when duty calls," Chief McIntyre said in the statement from Stoneham Police. "Officer Ponzo is a 23-year veteran of the Stoneham Police Department and he was the right person to be there when this man needed help. We credit Joe with helping to save this man's life and springing into action when he saw someone in need."

Marine Patrol stated the crash is under investigation and was reported to the FAA and the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services.

Varney Smith
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