Tuftonboro’s Airboat Rescue – why aren’t there more on the lake?

Last month, on Feb 11th we had the deadliest day on Lake Winnipsaukee’s history. 3 people died when their snowmobiles went though the ice. Officials knew it was more dangerous than usual and with the ice fishing derby in Meredith traffic on the lake was a lot higher than usual.  Warmer temperatures earlier in the week had thawed areas of the lake (some even completely thawed), then cold weather for a few days creating areas of thin ice where it was thawed, then snow to cover and hide the thin areas.  Warnings were posted but clearly people either didn’t hear the warnings or ignored them.


Tuftonboro FD’s airboat rescue was one of only two stationed on the lake that day (the other was temporarily stationed in Meredith – the north side of the lake). They responded to multiple calls from Moultonborough to Alton (roughly 2/3 of the largest lake in New Hampshire).


First, I’d like to say that Tuftonboro’s airboat rescue team DID save lives that day.  There is no doubt.  Sadly, though, lives were lost and it rises the question – what about all the other towns on the lake?


Tuftonboro is not the largest town or the most affluent town on the lake, by far.  It is actually one the small side (in terms of population) of town sizes on the lake.  Lake Winnipesaukee also covers three counties, Carroll, Belknap,and Grafton.  Considering the popularity of Lake Winnipesaukee all year, why aren’t there more airboat rescue teams permanently on the lake?  Wolfeboro borders Tuftonboro but it would be beneficial to have multiple teams centrally located.  What about larger towns, especially the tourist destinations?  Alton?  Meredith?  Gilford?  Weirs? Even Moultonborough (even though that borders Tuftonboro geographically it is a very large area between Wolfeboro, Tuftonboro, and Moultonborough.


Plus, airboats can be used on ice, open water, or a combination of the two making them usable all year.  Summer for boaters, skiers, and swimmers, and the winter for ice fishermen, snowmobilers, and cross-country skiers.


Honestly, many towns on the lake are missing an important part of their rescue teams and while I agree not every town needs one there should be more than one permanently stationed on the lake.  The lake community could benefit a lot from just a few more airboat rescue teams – maybe Meredith, Alton, Moultonborough, and Wolfeboro.  (and yes, I understand it means extra training for rescue teams in those towns).


Recently the Boston Globe wrote an article about this, also.  Hopefully the events of Feb 11th, 2017 will change some minds.


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