Passerby saves boy from drowning



LACONIA — A Messer Street resident came to the rescue after two young boys who were swimming at the foot Lake Opechee got caught in the current and were swept downstream on Friday afternoon.

Sefik Kosut, 49, of 125 Messer St., said, “I’m in the right place at the right time.”

Kosut said he heard cries for help and saw the two boys in the Winnipesaukee River, with one of them showing distress.

“I tried to make him come close to shore where it was more shallow, but he was scared and going down, so I jump in and grab him,” Kosut said, adding that the boy had gone under the water at least twice before he reached him.

The second boy was able to get out on his own and went to the railroad bridge to call for help.

Fire Chief Ken Erickson said firefighters responded to a water rescue call at 1:13 p.m. Lt. Jay Ellingson arrived from Central Station and found Kosut in the water, about 100 feet from shore, holding the boy afloat.

While the rescue team was preparing its inflatable boat, firefighter Nate Mills jumped in the river and swam out to the two people, putting the boy in a life jacket and bringing him to shore. Both boys were transported to Lakes Region General Hospital for an assessment, with the boy in the river being treated for near-drowning.

Kosut said later that the N.H. Marine Patrol informed him that the boy was fine.

Erickson said, “There’s no question, if he didn’t jump into the water, it would have been different.”

“I grow up on a mountain river, and all my life spend time in the water,” Kosut said. “I’m not a strong, but good swimmer. I know when I was young, the same thing happened to me, and friends save me, so I learned to take care of myself.”

He told firefighters, “I couldn’t let him die. So I jumped in. Thankfully, we were home having a late-afternoon cookout.”

Erickson said the boys apparently were alone at the time of the emergency, and the department was attempting to notify their parents.

The water rescue call came in at a particularly busy time for the fire department, which received four emergency calls in an hour, Erickson said.

“While at the river rescue, the Weirs crew and a Gilford ambulance responded to 1330 Union Ave. for an unconscious person,” he said. “The Weirs (crew) had just cleared from a motor vehicle crash on Summit Avenue. As soon as the units cleared Messer Street, there was another serious medical emergency on Court Street. That person had to be transported to Concord Hospital. Minutes later, there was an alarm activation at the Taylor Home. While at that location, there was another serious medical emergency on Summer Street.

“Earlier that morning, at 8:15 a.m., there were two simultaneous medical emergencies. Both patients were high-risk,” he said.


07-21 Water Rescue

At right, Laconia firefighters, including Nate Mills, along with Messer St. resident Sefik Kosut, help get a boy to shore from the Winnipesaukee River after he and another boy were caught in the current on Friday afternoon. (Courtesy Photo, Laconia Fire Department)


  • Written by Tom Caldwell
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'Rafting for wishes' concludes today; $100k is the goal

MEREDITH — What started as “two guys sitting out on a raft” to raise money for Make-A-Wish New Hampshire has become a major fundraiser for the organization that grants the wishes of children coping with major illnesses. Rafting for Wishes brought in $65,000 last year and is likely to break $100,000 this year.
The relay-style event has teams occupying rafts on Meredith Bay for a 30-hour period, starting at noon on Friday and running until 6 p.m. on Saturday, July 22. At least one member of the team has to be on the raft at all times during the event.
Event co-chairman Holly Blanchard, a staff member at Make-A-Wish NH, said that, as of Friday morning, they had received nearly $90,000 in pledges, and she expected to reach the $100,000 goal by the time the event is over.
Each participant is asked to raise $300, and teams have a $3,000 goal, Blanchard said. People can support individuals, teams, or the event in general by going to and following the links for Rafting for Wishes, or they can drop by to make donations in person.
Fourteen teams signed up for this year’s event, which coincides with the 30th anniversary of Make-A-Wish NH — hence, the 30-hour event.
Blanchard said previous Rafting for Wishes events continued for 44 hours, a number derived from the number of children on the waiting list that first year. For some participants, such a long event proved to be a problem, but many more are willing to make a 30-hour commitment.
This year’s event also includes activities in Hesky Park, with live entertainment, fireworks and a movie on Friday and fitness exercises and yoga, rafting games, live music and awards ceremonies on Saturday.
“You could not ask for better weather,” Blanchard said, noting that, last year, there was pouring rain during the event.
Julie Baron of Gilford, president and chief executive officer of Make-A-Wish NH, said the organization reaches only 75 percent of the eligible children. “Events like this help us bridge that gap,” she said.
That certainly was the case for Lucas MacDonald of Meredith, who was born with cystic fibrosis.
“We came down to support this last year, and found out he was eligible,” said Lucas’ mother, Laura.
Lucas got his wish to visit Disney World and also went to Universal Studios and Sea World.
Lucas, who is 7 but pointed out he will be 8 years old on July 30, said going on the rollercoasters was his favorite part of the trip, but he also got to touch stingrays and pet a dolphin at Sea World.
Just as exciting for him was the police escort from Meredith to the airport in Manchester at 3 a.m. Lucas’ hero, Sgt. Rob Nedeau of the Belknap County Sheriff’s Department, returned home from vacation a day early so he could take part in the procession, according to Laura.
“These wishes really are a turning point for these kids,” Baron said. “It’s an entire journey for them, from the time we start the planning to when their wish is granted. It gives them that thing that reaches the deep depths of their being, and it affects so many people. Our hope is to grant more and more wishes every year.”
Blanchard said the families continue to stay involved after seeing the wishes come true.
“It transforms the lives of these wishers,” she said. “They can’t control doctors’ appointments, but they can control the wishes.”
While the event is not strictly competitive, the chance to win small prizes and bragging rights by raising the most money provides an extra incentive for the teams, Baron said. There are prizes for the top three individuals and top three teams.
Jason Perry, on the team 7 Years Strong, is one of the two original Rafting for Wishes participants who sat on a raft in the Merrimack River seven years ago to raise money for Make-A-Wish NH. The second year, the event moved to the ocean, but it was still a small event. It was for the third year’s event that Make-A-Wish NH decided to make it a community event and moved it to Meredith, where it has been for the past five years.
“The community of Meredith and the Lakes Region embraced us,” Blanchard said. “It’s a great partnership.”
Since coming to Meredith, AutoServ of Tilton has sent a team every year, N.H. State Police have participated, and the Common Man Restaurant has sent a team.
“There’s a buzz about it this year that there’s never been before,” Blanchard said. “This is the first time we needed two larger rafts that can accommodate 50. There are smaller ones for 25 persons, and little ones to sleep in.”
Wanda Keenan of Laconia is a volunteer who also decided to field a team this year.
“Julie and I have been friends for years,” she said, “and I’m grateful that they let me help.”
Keenan said she is “very, very excited, not only to enlist, but also the people I’ve met preparing for this event. It’s very special.”
Keenan said she has exceeded her fundraising goal and credits the support of business associates, family, and friends.
“The Lakes Region comes together all the time, every time,” she said.

07-21 Rafting 1
Lucas MacDonald, left, of Meredith, received a Make-a-Wish trip to Florda last November. With his mother, Laura, and siblings Alexis and Landon, he was among those coming to the Meredith Docks on Friday to support Rafting for Wishes. (Tom Caldwell/Laconia Daily Sun)

07-21 Rafting 2
Among those participating in this year's Rafting for Wishes event on Meredith Bay are, from left, Brianna Pinter, Katelin Pinter, and Brianna Bodner of Weare. This is their third year participating in the event. Katelin is a "Wish Kid" who got her wish to visit Disney World. (Tom Caldwell/Laconia Daily Sun)

  • Written by Tom Caldwell
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Commission decides not to wait for lawmakers, votes to hire 4 more corrections' officers now

LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners, faced with an impending deadline to resume work on an $8 million jail project, unanimously voted Thursday to allow Corrections Superintendent Keith Gray to hire the four new officers he says are needed in order to open the new Belknap County Community Corrections Center.

The move came despite inaction by the Belknap County Convention on the commissioners' request that it reconsider its May 22 vote in which a supplemental appropriation that would have funded the four positions lost on a 7-7 tie vote.

The delegation will be meeting around Aug. 10 to take up the commissioners request for supplemental appropriations, according to delegation Chairman Herb Vadney (R-Meredith).

In support of their decision the commissioners released a letter from Concord Attorney Bruce Marshall, which maintains that the delegation acted in an "arbitrary and capricious manner" in cutting the Corrections Department's budget and then in denying the supplemental appropriation request.

The commissioners hired Marshall after meeting with him in a closed-door session on June 27.

The letter maintains that the delegation's actions put the contract for the construction of the 18,100-square-foot, 72-bed corrections center and upgrades to the current jail in jeopardy and leaves the county vulnerable to a breach of contract suit from Bauen Coroporation, the general contractor.

Work on the new corrections center was completed nearly a month ago and it has an occupancy permit,, but the work on the current jail, which will continue to hold as many as 50 inmates, has not started because the work requires that some inmates be transferred temporarily to the corrections center. Without the staffing, that transfer hasn't happened.

The last date at which work could start and be completed within the terms of Bauen's contract is Aug. 15, according to commission Chairman Dave DeVoy(R-Sanbornton).

The letter from Marshall also says, that, while the delegation has a high degree of discretion in the appropriation of funds, a 1975 decision by the state Supreme Court says the delegation must not be “arbitrary and capricious in its appropriations and must adequately fund the various county departments to perform their legally mandated functions.”

The letter also maintains that those functions include the housing of prisoners or their transfer to other counties if facilities are not adequate. He said that in the absence of action from the delegation the commissioners are faced with two options, either approving the hiring of the four officers or approving opening the corrections center without the officers and transferring a substantial number of inmates to other county jails in the state.

Two weeks ago Gray presented an analysis of jail construction alternatives which would allow construction to proceed to its final phase in which parts of the existing jail would be renovated and some parts discontinued.

He said that the county would have three options, hiring four new corrections officers at a yearly cost of $296,550, moving all sentenced inmates to another facility at an annual cost of $1,076,400 or moving all pre-trial defendants to other facilities at an annual cost of $972,900.

The last option would increase the burden of transporting prisoners on the Belknap County Sheriff's Department, which would see its travel time per month increase from 23 hours to 276 hours.

The letter further says that since the Department of Corrections superintendent has made a determination that the corrections facility cannot be opened without the new officers, who are deemed necessary for the operation of the facility, the law requires that delegation appropriate funding for those officers in the long term.

Commissioners also granted Gray the authority to waive the normal hiring procedure in order to have the new workers hired as soon as possible. Gray said that he has already identified the officers he would like to hire, two of whom are part-timers with his department and two currently working in other counties who have already expressed interest.

Gray said that he expects it will take a little more than two weeks to complete the hiring process and have the officers on board before the Aug. 15 deadline for work to start in the current jail.

During the discussion, Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) said that he'd supports approving the hiring of the additional four corrections officers as the most reasonable and least costly solution for the county. When Commissioner Glen Waring (R-Giilmanton) suggested finding funds within the existing budget , Taylor said he didn't want to use accounting gimmicks to try and find a solution to a problem which he said was caused by the delegation's own actions.

“The delegation has a responsibility to properly fund those things which the county has a statutory obligation to provide. I am sure that a court would agree with that decision,” said Taylor.

Commissioners met in an non-public session following the meeting at which they were planning to discuss legal options available to them in the event the delegation does not appropriate the funds they are requesting.

  • Written by Roger Amsden
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