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Off-duty Stoneham police officer helps rescue pilot after glider plane crashes into Lake Winnipesaukee

The New Hampshire pilot sustained injuries that were not life-threatening.

First responders met Stoneham Police Officer Joe Ponzo at a dock to transport a pilot who crashed into Lake Winnipesaukee Sunday afternoon. Courtesy of Stoneham Police Officer Joe Ponzo via The Boston Globe

An off-duty Stoneham police officer helped rescue the pilot of an ultralight glider plane after it crashed into Lake Winnipesaukee on Sunday afternoon, according to authorities. 

Officer Joe Ponzo was vacationing with his family on a boat in the New Hampshire lake when he saw the glider plane crash around 3 p.m., according to Stoneham police. The off-duty officer called the New Hampshire State Police Marine Patrol Unit to report the crash and then rushed to the scene of the crash, working with other boaters to pull the man piloting the glider, who was conscious and alert, onto his boat.

“Thankfully we were in the right place at the right time,” Ponzo said in a statement. “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.”

The pilot, identified by authorities as David Grapes, 78, of Center Harbor, New Hampshire, was the only occupant of the glider, according to New Hampshire State Police. The 78-year-old sustained injuries that were not life-threatening and was transported to Lakes Region General Hospital for treatment. 

According to state police, the pilot was pulled from the water across from Grouse Point in Meredith Bay, the plane sinking in approximately 65 feet of water. The glider was about 1,000 feet above the bay when the engine stopped.

Police said the crash remains under investigation. 

Stoneham Chief James McIntyre praised Ponzo in a statement released by the department. 

“Even off-duty on vacation with our families we are never truly off the job when duty calls,” the chief said. “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.”

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Anyone with information about the crash is asked to contact New Hampshire State Police – Marine Patrol Lt. Crystal McLain at 603-227-2113 or [email protected]

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