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Pilot crashes plane into N.H. river after engine malfunction; swims to safety

A pilot crashed a plane into the Connecticut River in Charlestown, N.H., Wednesday morning after he reported a mechanical malfunction with the engine, lost altitude, and collided with high-tension power lines, police said.

The pilot was later identified as George Tucker, 27, of Ludlow, Vt., who was first seen swimming in the Connecticut River 50 feet away from the plane, Police Chief Patrick Connors said in a statement Thursday.

The Charlestown, N.H., emergency dispatch received a report of a plane crash in the Connecticut River in the area of Lower Landing at 10:08 a.m., Charlestown, N.H., police said.

As crews were on their way, Charlestown, N.H., Police Sergeant Michelle Dunning arrived to the Lower Landing boat ramp and saw a yellow biplane with its wing sticking out of the water around 300 yards south of the boat launch, police said. Dunning also saw Tucker swimming, according to the statement.

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“Sergeant Dunning along with Trooper First Class Brandon Dean of the New Hampshire State Police were able to communicate with the man who was swimming and verified that he was the only occupant of the plane,” police said.

Tucker eventually swam to the bank of the river and met with Dunning, Dean, and crews from Charlestown, N.H., Fire Department, officials said. After Tucker was extracted from the river onto shore, he was taken to Springfield Hospital by Golden Cross Ambulance, police said.

An investigation found that the plane involved in the crash was “a 1952 PA — 18 Alpha bush style plane,” officials said. Tucker, who is an experienced pilot, took off from the Hartness State Airport in Springfield, Vt., around 35 minutes before the crash, police said.

The plane was traveling south over the Connecticut River when it collided with the power lines, which span from Lower Landing in Charlestown to Springfield, Vt., officials said.

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In the statement, police thanked several responders involved, including Charlestown, N.H., fire; Golden Cross Ambulance; New Hampshire State Police; Walpole, N.H., police; North Walpole, N.H. fire; New Hampshire Marine patrol; New Hampshire’s Department of Environmental Services; New Hampshire’s Department of Transportation, Aeronautical Division; the staff of the Hartness State Airport; National Grid; and SG Reed Towing and Recovery.


Matt Yan can be reached at matt.yan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @matt_yan12.