Off-duty Stoneham officer rescues pilot after plane crashes into Lake Winnipesaukee

Off-duty Stoneham officer rescues pilot after plane crashes into Lake Winnipesaukee

LACONIA, N.H. — An off-duty Stoneham police officer saved the life of a pilot after his small plane crashed into Lake Winnipesaukee Sunday afternoon.

“I was in the right place in the right time, ya know,” said Officer Joe Ponzo, who was on the last day of his 10-day vacation with his family.

Ponzo says he was on his boat with his family when all of a sudden, they witnessed an ultralight glider plane crash into the lake.

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“I see this plane up in the air and I’m like, oh look it’s going to land in the water,” said Ponzo. “I thought it was kind of peculiar because those planes don’t land in this area because it’s so choppy.”

Ponzo was about 300 yards away when the plane hit the water by Meredith Bay.

Luckily, the 78-year-old pilot was able to escape the plane before it sunk.

“Within seconds the plane had sunk about 60 feet under water, we found out afterwards how deep it was,” said Ponzo.

Ponzo was able to rescue the pilot from the water and pulled him onto his boat to safety. He says a nurse on another nearby boat also came aboard to render aid while they called state police for assistance.

The pilot was then rushed to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

“He was just completely in shock his plane was gone,” said Ponzo. “He said he lost his engine and he tried to land the plane, as he was landing he just went nose first caught the wave with the wing and it completely flipped his plane into a 360.”

Ponzo says in his 23-year career as a police officer, he has never witnessed an event like this, but it goes to show even while off duty, he’s always ready to jump into action to save a life.

“I’m still shaking to be honest with you,” said Ponzo. “It was bizarre and the fact that he didn’t die is amazing to me.”