Everyday Heroes

What A Hero! Off-Duty Police Officer Helps Save Pilot After Plane Crashes In Front Of Him

Talk about being in the right place at the right time! He's just the guy you want to have nearby when disaster strikes.


Officer Joe Ponzo has seen a lot during his 23 years with the Stoneham Police Department in Massachusetts. But last Sunday, while he was vacationing with his family at Lake Winniepsaukee, he happened to witness an event unlike any he's ever seen.

A glider plane literally dropped out of the sky and nosedived into the water, right in front of the boat the Ponzo family had rented to enjoy the lake.

"It just kind of dropped out of the sky and came nose first right into the water, and I was like oh my god, it just crashed," Ponzo told NBC-10.

Hear Officer Ponzo describe the moments after the crash in his own words...

Ponzo immediately called the New Hampshire State Police marine patrol to let them know about the crash, then he rushed his boat over to survey the damage and see what he could do to help.

The plane started to sink immediately, however the pilot was able to get himself out in time. Another boater helped to get a life vest to the pilot and Ponzo was able to pull him out of the water.

Officer Ponzo got the pilot to safety where he was immediately rushed to a nearby hospital. John Guilfoil Public Relations/Facebook

The pilot, a 78-year-old man named David Grapes, said the plane's engine stopped when he was about 1,000 feet above the water. Grapes was the only person on board the plane when it crashed.

Once Officer Ponzo got Grapes to a nearby dock, he was quickly rushed to Lakes Region General Hospital where he was treated for non-life threatening injuries.

"I'm still shaken to be honest with you, and the fact that he didn't die is just amazing to me," Ponzo said of the pilot.

Thankfully, the pilot was alert and responsive and only suffered minor injuries. John Guilfoil Public Relations/Facebook

After the incident, the Chief of the Stoneham Police Department made a statement, crediting Officer Ponzo for helping to save the pilot's life.

"Even off-duty on vacation with our families we are never truly off the job when duty calls," Chief 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."

As for Ponzo, he says he was just in the right place, at the right time.

"It was a close call," he said. "I was there within maybe 30 seconds, the plane was gone."

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