Joe Ponzo

Officer Joe Ponzo (Courtesy photo)

MEREDITH — An off-duty Bay State police officer is being credited with rescuing a Center Harbor man who was flying an ultralight aircraft which plunged into Meredith Bay.

State Marine Patrol said David Grapes, 78, of Center Harbor, received non-life-threatening injuries after the engine of the small aircraft stopped as it was flying at an altitude of about 1,000 feet over the bay at about 3 p.m. on Sunday.

Joe Ponzo, an officer with the Stoneham (Massachusetts) Police Department, saw the ultralight crash, rushed in his boat over to the crash scene, where he and other boaters in the area managed to pull Grapes into Ponzo’s boat, according to a news release issued by Stoneham Police Chief James McIntyre, who credited Ponzo for saving the man’s life.

Meanwhile, Marine Patrol Officer Zachary Cobis was flagged down by a passing boater who advised him of the crash. Cobis rushed to the crash scene across from Grouse Point, the agency reported.

The aircraft sank in 65 feet of water, according to Marine Patrol.

Ponzo was on vacation with his family at the time, according to McIntyre.

The Meredith and Laconia fire departments were called to assist, along with Meredith EMS.

Grapes suffered what Meredith Deputy Fire Chief Andre Kloetz said appeared to be a bruise to his head and scrapes on his hand. He said Grapes also appeared to be disoriented as a result of mishap.

The Laconia Fire Department boat was sent from Weirs Beach to provide assistance. Chief Kirk Beattie said department EMTs helped to provide Grapes medical aid. Boats from the Meredith Police Department and Fire Departments were also dispatched to the scene.

“It was a great team effort from a lot of agencies,” Kloetz said.

A boat with EMTs brought Grapes to shore at a spot on Pinnacle Park Road where rescue personnel carried the victim up a steep slope to awaiting ambulance which transported him to Lakes Region General Hospital in Laconia for treatment.

Grapes could not be reached for comment. A published number listed for him is no longer working.

“Thankfully we were in the right place at the right time,” Ponzo said, according to McIntyre’s release. “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.”

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

The crash remains under investigation, Marine Patrol said. The agency asked anyone with information to contact Marine Patrol Lt. Crystal McLain at 603-227-2113 or

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.